Playing with fire: Images of fire on toy packaging

Terese B. Curri, Tina L. Palmieri, Traci H. Aoki, Camille K. Kaulkin, Melen E. Lunn, Catherine M. Gregory, David G. Greenhalgh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Despite prevention efforts designed to teach children that fire is not a toy, each year hundreds of children, primarily male, are injured while playing with fire. Mass-produced toys and games shape children's behaviors, and the fire images on toy packaging may send the message that fire is fun rather than dangerous. The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency of male fire-related injuries at our burn center and to investigate the use of fire images in toy packaging. An aisle-by-aisle search was conducted at a national toy store. Toys with fire images on their packaging were identified. Target gender and the setting in which the fire was displayed also were recorded. Only toys with clearly visible flames on their packaging were included. We reviewed our TRACS database from April 1997 to May 1999 for fire-related injuries to children admitted to our institution as a result of playing with fire. Review of toy stores revealed 404 toys with packaging containing fire images. Of these, 97% (393 of 404) were targeted to males. Video games were the leading category of flame-related packaging (208 of 404), followed by toy car/truck displays (84 of 404). Packaging for girls' toys had safe and contained settings, whereas boys' toys used settings that were uncontrolled and associated with speed and weapons. A total of 59 children, 52 males and 7 females, with a mean age of 10 ± 0.6 years and mean TBSA burn of 12.3 ± 2.1% were admitted to our facility with fire-related injuries during the study interval. Children imitate life with toys and use play to experiment with new behavior. Boys are receiving a powerful, consistent message from images of fire on toy packaging. These advertisements may help to contribute to the higher incidence of fire-related injuries in boys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-165
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Surgery
  • Nursing(all)
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Emergency Medicine


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