Children, matches and lighters

Keep matches and lighters away from children and out of sight

photo of child reaching for a lighter

The consequences of a child getting hold of a lighter can be fatal.


  • In Cambridgeshire between April 2008 to December 2012, there were 50 fires in the home started or caused by children aged 9 and under.
  • These fires led to nine people becoming injured.
  • Of the 50 fires, 13 were started by children with lighters, 11 with matches and two with candles.
  • Although children as young as two are capable of operating lighters, a large proportion of the children who start fires by playing with lighters are aged three and four. At these ages, children are curious about fire but don't understand the danger.
  • Children tend to copy their parents or older brothers or sisters. If children see their parents using a lighter or striking matches, they may well try and copy if they find them lying around. A number of fires have also been started by children using a cooker taper as they have seen their parents do this.
  • It is not unheard of for some parents to give their children lighters to play with or even give to babies and toddlers to chew on as teethers. This only teaches the child they are acceptable to play with.


  • Purchase child-resistant lighters. However, remember these lighters are child resistant, not childproof. A child-resistant lighter means one that is designed and manufactured in such a way that it cannot, under normal conditions of use, be operated by children younger than 51 months, because of the force needed to operate or because of its design or the protection of its ignition mechanism or the complexity or sequence of operations required for the ignition. Remember, a child may still be able to use the lighter to start a fire intentionally or otherwise.
  • Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children - even child resistant lighters. This means keeping them well hidden and not letting your child see where you keep them.
  • Never use a lighter as a source of amusement for children. That may encourage children to think of lighters as a toy and try to light one on their own. Explain lighters as being a tool for adults in much the same way as a hammer or saw.
  • Never buy or use novelty lighters. Those in the shape of teddy bears, animals or cartoon characters are especially dangerous as they appeal to young children.
  • Encourage children to tell you if they find matches or lighters. Let them see you being careful about fire risks.
  • Do not show your child how to use a lighter or encourage them to help you light cigarettes or candles.
  • Ensure you have a working smoke alarm on each level of your home.
  • Do not be tempted to take the battery out of your smoke alarm to power a toy
  • If your smoke alarm keeps going off when you are cooking, do not be tempted to take out the battery or remove the alarm. Instead, ring your local fire station for advice.

If you are concerned your child has an unhealthy interest or fascination with fire, you can request a FREE firesetter intervention visit by one of our specially trained officers.

You may also be entitled to a FREE home fire safety check. Requests are prioritised according to individual risk.