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In English, "child's play" can literally mean "play performed by a child" or it can be used as an idiom to refer to "something easy".

I see that Japanese 児戯 can also mean 子供の遊び (児の戯れ, I guess?) - but can it also be used as an idiom to refer to "something easy"? I suppose you could always use a "simile"-type construction, like 「その試験は児戯のように簡単だった」, but would I be clearly understood if I were to say something more terse like 「その試験は児戯だった」 (cf. slightly unnatural English "That exam was child's play")?

6

児戯 is an uncommon and difficult word. 児戯のように簡単 would make sense as a literary expression, and I won't be surprised if I see this in old novels. But if you say this in a conversation today, people would probably say "ジギって何?"

子どもの遊びのように簡単だった is not something people usually say, but it does make sense and better than 児戯 anyway.

There are at least two similar idioms in Japanese: 赤子の手をひねる and 子どもだまし.

赤子の手をひねる (lit. "twisting a baby's arm") is an idiomatic and metaphoric phrase that expresses how easy something is.

テストは赤子の手をひねるように簡単だった。
テストは赤子の手をひねるような簡単さだった。

But I think it's rarely used in daily conversations, either.

子どもだまし is used when there is something difficult/complicated/interesting for children, but too simple for adults.

テストは子どもだましみたいなものだったよ。

This sounds natural, although it may have a slightly different nuance.

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can it also be used as an idiom to refer to "something easy"?-

Yes. As the link @oldergod posted on comment suggests, it also has nuances like puerility and worthlessness (I guess it's the same in English, too?).

"児戯のように簡単" sounds strange for me (probably because "児戯" alone implies 簡単), and it's more often used in phrases "児戯に類する" and "児戯に等しい". I agree with @naruto in that these are somewhat classical and bookish, but I don't think 児戯 is uncommon. I expect many people to understand these phrases even in conversations, if used properly.

Usage examples from 青空文庫 :

児戯に類した空想 (「愛撫」,梶井基次郎)

それが総じて稚拙であり、いわゆる児戯に等しいものであった。 (「フランス料理について」,北大路魯山人)

拙者の太刀筋などは児戯に類するものでござる (「落語・教祖列伝」,坂口安吾)

ナアニ。やって見せる。児戯に類する仕事だ(「怪夢」,夢野久作)

四元の世界を眺めている彼には二元の芸術はあるいはあまりに児戯に近いかもしれない (「アインシュタイン, 寺田寅彦)

For the example regarding an exam, you can say

試験は児戯に等しかった

, which may sound a little too grandiose and novel-like but totally acceptable. (This usage emphasizes the superiority of the person for whom 試験が児戯に等しい rather than the easiness of the exam itself in my interpretation. For example if you like Death Note, this expression really suits Light Yagami.)

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