Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to talk about kids in English

Have you heard “children” and “kids” both used in conversation?

Do you feel a bit unsure as to which one is more appropriate to use in English?

Though both words are correct when talking about the younger set, one may be a bit more formal.

We’ll help you to see the differences between the two, and which one may be slightly better in conversation.


Here’s a question about this very topic and it highlights how this can be a bit confusing in conversation.


Hi Lindsey,

I have a question for you. I work at a children’s hospital, and I sometimes ask parents how many children they have. Once in a while, I experience this funny conversation:

Me: How many children do you have?

Parent: Do you mean how many kids we have? (as if I asked how many cars they have)

And sometimes, they answer as “we have three kids”.

Is it more common to use “kids” rather than “children” in informal situations? Is this more appropriate in general? By the way, this situation might be something regional, though I’m not sure. I wanted to hear your opinion about these two words.

If you cover this topic in your podcast, could you also add how one should address kids, let’s say, at the doctor’s office? The men usually address little boys as “hey buddy” or “hey bud”? Can women also say “hey buddy”? It sounds boyish to me. Are there any other words that you might suggest while addressing children?

Thanks so much!



All Ears English TranscriptsMake sure you understand every word you hear on All Ears English.

Bring your English to the advanced level with new vocabulary and natural expressions.

Get the transcripts from today’s episode.

Learn to speak naturally with the American accent.

Click here to download them instantly.


Both Words Have Uses

In the big picture, there is no right or wrong when it comes to these two words.

You can use “children” and “kids” in conversation, and be perfectly fine and appropriate.

The reality is that “children” may be a bit more formal sounding than “kids”.

If you are presenting to a group like a class, or speaking more formally then you may find that “children” works just fine.

If however you are talking to somebody in everyday conversation, then “kids” may work out well.


When You Might Use Either Word

Though there really isn’t a right or wrong, there may be a better choice in certain situations.

Though both words are used interchangeably,  these guidelines can set you up for success.

You may wish to use children in the following situations:

  • In writing: This gives it a more formal and polished feel if you opt for this in writing.
  • With a doctors office: This can work well if you are making an appointment or referring to your children in general.
  • In some sort of self introduction: This may be in a class or group setting, where you might say something like  “Hi everyone, I’m X and I have X children”


You may wish to  use kids in different situations that include:

  • In an informal situation: This works if you are meeting someone and you might say “I have 3 kids too!”
  • At a restaurant: You might say something like  “do you have a kids menu?” or “kids eat free on Wednesdays”
  • When talking with other parents: More than likely you are having an informal and everyday conversation, and therefore “kids” would be perfectly appropriate.


A Few Helpful Things To Remember

Children/kids are thought of and intended to be used for younger people, such as those that are not quite teenagers yet.

However when someone is talking in general about how many they have or something like that, they may still say children/kids such as “I have 3 children and 2 grandchildren. They live in Texas.”

To show that kids is more informal, you really wouldn’t likely say  “This is my child” when introducing an older daughter or son. You’d likely say “this is my daughter”.

In general, the word “kid” or “child” is used less frequently than the plural.

You might  say son or daughter when just talking about one.

When it comes to saying “buddy” or “bud”, that is perfectly fine for a boy or girl.

You might also say something like “sweetie”, which is typical for a girl but can work for either.



If someone says “do you mean” maybe it’s not about the word you chose if there is confusion.

If all else fails, you can try repeating it as well for clarity.

It may be possible that the person didn’t hear you.

In this example, children and kids are the same but one is more formal.

Remember it’s about Connection NOT Perfection, so just do your best and it will become clear in conversation.


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X
  • App-Store-Button
  • google-play-badge
  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X