The other day, I went to a bookstore and saw that there was a "児童" section, which means children's section. But more often in books, I see "子供" used instead. When to use each of them?

3 Answers 3


児童 is defined in the School Education Act as children from the age of six to twelve who goes to elementary school and in some laws like the Child Welfare Act as children under eighteen.

児童 is used in formal names like 児童養護施設 (children's institution), 児童相談所 (child consultation center), etc. That is to say, 児童 is a formal and legal word for children whose age is under eighteen.

子供 generally means a child as indicated in the following link, こども【子供】

  • Does it matter that 子供 with the どの written in kanji was only recently added to 常用 or is that not relevant to usage?
    – virmaior
    Aug 16, 2016 at 15:35
  • I think 殿 is 常用漢字 from of old. Aug 16, 2016 at 15:49
  • We don't use 殿 after 子供, as you don't say Mr./Miss child, which sounds very awkward. Aug 17, 2016 at 2:23
  • I actually miswrote that... I mean ども (I feel like for a while the correct orthography was 子ども)
    – virmaior
    Aug 17, 2016 at 3:14
  • 供 is also 常用漢字 from of old. I think there is no difference whether ども in 子ども is written in 漢字 or not, but now, I know there is a thought that 子ども is more appropriate than 子供. detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1311017803 Aug 17, 2016 at 3:58

子供 is a common word eqivalent to child (children) and kid. 児童 is a big word for 子供, which is used in formal and legal usages as in "児童文学," "児童教育,"and "児童相談所" as Yuuichi cited.

I thought we can say ”幼稚園(保育園)児童. But 新明解国語辞典 published by Sanseido defines "児童" as "(小学校に在籍する)子供 - child (or children) (who goes to elementary school) with "who goes to elementary school" in parenthes.


When to use each of them?

The other answers saying that 児童 is a more formal word for 子供 are correct, but they don't point out by far the most obvious distinction between these two words. Nobody calls their own children "私の児童" or someone else's children 田仲さんの児童, yet you can refer to even your adult children as your "kodomo". So 児童 strictly refers to children as an age-related thing not as a family relationship.

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