It has been shown that kidney transplantation results in superior life expectancy and quality of life compared with dialysis treatment for patients with end-stage renal disease. However, kidney transplantation in children differs in many aspects from adult kidney transplantation. This review focuses on specific issues of surgical care associated with kidney transplantation in children, including timing of transplantation, technical considerations, patient and graft survival, growth retardation and post-transplant malignancy. At the same time, there is a large discrepancy between the number of available donor kidneys and the number of patients on the waiting list for kidney transplantation. There is a general reluctance to use paediatric donor kidneys, because of relatively frequent complications such as graft thrombosis and early graft failure. We review the specific aspects of kidney transplantation from paediatric donors such as the incidence of graft thrombosis, hyperfiltration injury and 'en bloc' transplantation of two kidneys from one donor with an excellent long-term outcome, which is comparable with adult donor kidney transplantation. We also discuss the potential use of paediatric non-heart-beating donor kidneys, from donors whose heart stopped beating with the preservation techniques used.