PRIME TIME WITH KIDS: Make fireplace firestarters with recycled candles

By Donna Erickson

Sometimes, as I’m pulling candle stubs and melted wax from candlesticks and votive holders at the end of the holidays or a birthday party, I think about how another celebration has passed. Picking through the leftover wax, I remember the happy moments all over again.

Those candle bits also can continue to offer pleasure as firestarters in your wood-burning fireplace.

Here’s the stuff you need:

  • nature finds such as bark, twigs and small pinecones
  • 1 tin can, such as a large soup can with lid removed (pinch rim of the can with pliers to form a spout for easy pouring)
  • saucepan
  • candle stubs, extra paraffin if needed (available in the canning section of supermarkets and craft stores)
  • muffin tray
  • paper muffin liners
  • candle wicking (available at craft stores — also use wicking remaining from melted candle wax)

Here’s the fun:

  • Take a walk outside with your kids to pick up some of nature’s treasures, such as small pinecones, bark fallen on the ground and twigs.
  • When you get inside, an adult should fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and set the tin can in the center. Put candle stubs and add a chunk of paraffin (if needed) in can. As water gets hot, the wax will melt quickly. Stir occasionally, keeping a constant eye on it, since it is flammable.
  • Meanwhile, your kids may fill a muffin tray with paper liners.  Using a potholder, an adult should lift the tin can out of the water, let contents cool down and then pour about half an inch of wax into each muffin cup. 
  • Now consider your wicks.  If you have a longer one from a melted candle, you might want to use that, or use fresh ones from the craft store.  Place a 3- to 4-inch wick in the wax in each cup so that the wick hangs out on the side, then set a medium-size pinecone in each cup.
  • Pick through outdoor finds and design an arrangement, quickly placing a few twigs, leaves and bark into the rapidly hardening wax.  Once the nature collage is complete, add a little more liquid wax, if you wish. Let harden.  Store in a recycled net produce bag or arrange in an attractive basket or bowl near your fireplace.
  • To use, an adult should place one firestarter between kindling and logs in a wood burning fireplace and light the wick.  It will ignite the kindling quickly.

Safety Note: The firestarters are not intended for gas fireplaces.  Never leave a fire unattended and keep out of the reach of children.


Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”

© 2018 Donna Erickson; Distributed by King Features Syndicate


PRIME TIME WITH KIDS: Make fireplace firestarters with recycled candles–