As long as they’re used safely, what’s wrong with letting my kids play with sparklers?
When I was growing up, my family went camping on the 4th of July almost every year. I remember when twilight came, sitting on the shore of a quiet Adirondack lake with my brothers, patiently waiting for our dad to bust out the one thing we were most excited for: sparklers. My parents didn’t seem to question their safety, as they were thrust into our pudgy, little hands from an age so young I can’t recall. It was just something we always did.
And my kids do it too.
Of course, I was a kid way back in the 1990s. And now, it’s 2016. We’re armed to the teeth with all kinds of information about the dangers of sparklers and other fireworks. Which isn’t to say being informed is a bad thing. After all, as the 2015 report on fireworks from the Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates, there are some legitimate concerns regarding the safety of sparklers and fireworks.
According to their report, last year, sparklers sent nearly 1900 people across the country to the ER. The commission states sparklers burn at temperatures of around 2000 degrees and shouldn’t be handled by small children. The report says that sparklers injure more people than any other kind of firework. For kids under five years old, sparklers accounted for 65% of firework-related injuries. Overall, between sparklers and fireworks, burns made up that same percentage in types of injuries sustained.
While the report didn’t explain why sparklers accounted for the most injuries in young children, it’s probably safe to say it’s because most parents don’t let a 5-year-old light off bottle rockets and quarter sticks of dynamite. Sparklers are what little kids are most likely to use. Therefore, the statistic seems a bit more daunting than it is.
That said, this weekend, my husband and I plan to give our kids a few boxes of wooden sparklers each (the only kind legal to sell in New York state.) Why? Because a little common sense and a lot of supervision means that our kids have never been injured by sparklers. And we’re certain that will continue to be the case.
First of all, we’re good parents. Careful parents. We read studies and do research and worry about their safety. We’re vigilant in every way. So when I say we let our kids use sparklers, there are a few key points to consider.
From the moment the first sparkler’s lit, they’re supervised incredibly closely. We don’t leave their sides until the boxes are empty. Before allowing them to use sparklers, we considered their age and maturity level. Just because our preschooler seemed to understand how to handle one didn’t mean we let her then 2-year-old brother follow suit. And above all, we adhere to a few extremely easy safety rules that have yet to steer us wrong.
We always have a bucket of water right near where we let the kids use sparklers. They know that when the sparkler starts to burn down, they drop it in the bucket, (at which point, I may or may not sing Drop It Like It’s Hot…OK, I totally do). Our oldest child was almost four the first time we let her use a sparkler, and we made sure she understood the rules before handing one over; hold it at arm’s length, wear a long-sleeve shirt, never bring the sparkler anywhere near the face, and don’t ever touch the business-end.
Indeed, the CPSCs tips on firework safety include close supervision of children, our handy bucket-of-water trick and never letting kids ignite a sparkler or firework on their own. It’s really pretty simple.
When other parents find out I let my kids participate in this time-honored summer tradition, I sometimes get a little side-eye. And that’s fine. Everyone is free to have an opinion and do what they feel is safe. But I’m quick to defend my parenting and explain that it’s not as though we hand our kids a box of sparklers, a book of matches and wander off. Myself, my husband and several other adults are always present, watching them like hawks. All has been well for years, and I’m confident this weekend will be no exception.
So even though there’s obvious potential for injury, I won’t be curtailing our annual 4th of July fun any time soon. As long as my kids follow the rules, I’ll stock up on sparklers and watch the same joy in their eyes that I know was in mine some 25 years ago. We’re well-informed of the risks, and I know our precautions and common sense will keep them safe for many summers to come.