There are several words that mean "child" in Chinese, e.g. 孩子, 儿童 and a few others. When can they be used interchangeably and when not? For example:

  • The children are playing: 孩子们在玩呢 or 儿童们在玩呢 or both ?
  • My children: 我的孩子 (not 我的儿童?)
  • Child labour: 童工, 孩(子)工.

Update: Yesterday, a native speaker told me that you can say 一个孩子 but not 一个儿童.

  • 孩子 is far more common, otherwise they are interchangable. However, not in composite words like 孩(子)工. – user4452 Mar 3 '16 at 17:51
  • child labor 童工, child soldier 儿童兵, 娃娃兵 , child pornography 儿童色情, child prostitution 儿童卖淫,children with leukemia 白血病儿童, childhood disease 儿童期疾病, childhood cancer 儿童癌症, – user6065 Mar 3 '16 at 21:00
  • 小马词典: 儿童 ér tóng child; CL:个 – user6065 Mar 4 '16 at 10:01
  • This is like the difference between "kid孩子" and "child儿童" and “adolescent青少年”, ”subteen孩童“, "teenager少年", – shuangwhywhy Mar 5 '16 at 7:21
up vote 5 down vote accepted

In most cases, they are not interchangeable. In my experience, "儿童" emphasizes on age, but "孩子" emphasizes on relationship.

When you are talking about a part of the population, "儿童" is more formal and can be used with other words to make phrases. Therefore, in the following occasions you only use "儿童":

儿童医院 儿童乐园 童工 适龄儿童

"孩子" is informal when you talk about that population and is seldom used with other words. The only case I can think about is "孩子们". You cannot say "孩子医院". HOWEVER, it is the most commonly used word to indicate relationship, i.e. "我的孩子" for "my child(ren)". You cannot say "我的儿童".

By the way, for people in their 50s, they can call all people younger than (approximately) 25 "孩子们", but someone at his age of 20 is definitely not "儿童". That's why I say "孩子" emphasizes on relationship.


From a translation perspective, "儿童" can be translated into "kid", "infant", "child"; "孩子" mostly means "child". The meanings and usage of these two words are not strictly corresponding to those English words so be careful.


"少儿" is "teen", and usually only refers to that group of people (i.e. "teens"). It is kind of different...

  • Actually you can say 我的儿童, but it is rare. 儿童 is more like "childhood" in such instances, such as 我的儿童照片 or 我的儿童世界. – user4452 Mar 3 '16 at 21:23
  • 2
    @倪阔乐 I never heard of "我的儿童照片", though I know what you mean... "童年照片" makes more sense to me. – bfrguci Mar 3 '16 at 21:41
  • @bfrguci The distinction in emphasis on age versus relationship is very helpful. I hadn't thought of that. (I can not yet vote up answers.) – Christophe Strobbe Mar 4 '16 at 8:59
  • @ChristopheStrobbe Sure. I am glad that I can help. However please also be aware that's only my experience as a native speaker. I didn't find a reference for it. – bfrguci Mar 4 '16 at 21:58

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