Thermal injury is a significant contributor to the overall problem of injury among children. Children are at greater risk of hospitalization due to thermal injury than any other age group, and their fatality rate is second only to those over 60 years of age. This study provides an overview of thermal injury in New Zealand children, age 0-14 years, resulting in death or hospitalization. Eighty-one thermal fatalities were identified from Health Statistical Services (HSS), Department of Health, data accessed for the 10-year period from 1978 to 1987. The records of the Coroners' Court, held by the Justice Department, were also accessed in order to gather additional information about the circumstances of fatal injury in each case. Thermal injury hospital admissions (n = 634) were identified from HSS data for the year 1988. Children were more likely to die in house fires than any other thermal injury event. Most house fires were started by smoking paraphernalia or electrical appliances. Two-thirds of the childhood thermal injury hospitalizations were due to contact with hot water, the most commonly identified source being a hot beverage. Thermal injury rates for New Zealand children are higher than reported overseas. Prevention strategies that have proven effective elsewhere are discussed with recommendations for New Zealand.