A child is a person under the age of 18, but there are many different stages a person goes through before becoming an adult. A baby is under the age of one. A toddler is between the ages of one and two. A preteen might be ten or eleven. A teenager is between the ages of 12 and 19. These are all children (plural).*

  • She’s a beautiful child.
  • The child’s bedroom is full of stuffed animals and toys. (The word "child" is singular and possessive in this sentence.)
  • What were you like as a child?
  • Did you have a good childhood? (childhood = time during which a person is a child)

The word "child" suggests a lower level of maturity, so it can be used to describe adult activity:

  • Bill is a man-child. He’s 32 years old, lives with his parents, likes to play video games, and avoids positions of responsibility.
  • Gabrielle throws temper tantrums and acts like a child when things don’t go her way. (This can be said of a child or an adult.)
  • This game is child’s play. (It’s easy.)

The plural form of child is children.

  • Do you have any children?
  • How many children do you have?
  • Jennifer has one child.
  • Her sister, Tracy, has two children.
  • The children’s play area is monitored by an adult. (Note that the possessive form of "children" uses " ‘s."
  • Leslie enjoys reading children’s books to her son.

The word "child" is often used with other nouns to form compound nouns:

  • Child development is an area of academic study in which students learn how children mature.
  • Child care is provided when a mother and/or father goes to work during the day and needs someone to take care of the kids.
  • Child abuse is a situation in which a child is regularly beaten by a parent or a custodian.
  • Child support is paid to a spouse who is divorced and receives financial support as a condition of ending the marriage. Usually a man pays child support, but it’s also possible that a woman who makes a lot of money would pay child support to an ex-husband.

The word "childish" is an adjective.

Note: A teenager doesn’t like to be called a child.

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July 3, 2016