Living in the urban sprawl, there are no convenient ways to acquire the tender and kindling needed to start fires (in the fireplace, of course). The beautifully manicured regional park across the street is so well maintained that there are never any stray twigs. We used to use the pine cones we'd find in the complex until our chimney sweep strongly warned us against this little practice. Apparently we'd made a huge candle of pine resin on the inside of our chimney, just ripe for instant firestorm. I'm sure the fact that the kids had added spray glitter to the pine cones before tossing them in the fire didn't help (though they made such lovely shiny sparks).
Firestarters are easy and fun to make, especially for kids. You need just a few materials: a cardboard egg carton, dryer lint,
broken crayons, and an old pot you don't ever plan to ever use for food again.
Melt the crayons in the pot.
It will only take a minute or two, so keep the flame low! Stuff the egg carton cups with the dryer lint. Dryer lint is extremely flammable, especially mine, which is full of cat hair. Drizzle the melted crayons over the whole mess using an old spoon. I use plastic spoons, which melt each time. I like to add the crayon paper to the cups too -- waste nothing. Let the firestarters dry, then cut the egg cups apart.
We use one at a time in the fireplace. It's smart to set them in a pie pan or other inflammable dish so that you don't get melted crayon all over the bottom of your fireplace. We've found that the the firestarters burn completely, though, and have never had that problem ourselves. Our chimney sweep approves!
The best part? We're using up some materials that would otherwise have been thrown out. They do a nice sustained burn that ignites the kindling (or crumbled newspaper) and prevents us from having to relight the fire every 10 minutes.