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children vs childNodes

Written byPhuoc Nguyen
04 Sep, 2023
If you're using the JavaScript Document Object Model (DOM) to access an element's child nodes, you have two options: `children` and `childNodes`. Although these properties may seem similar at first glance, they actually work a bit differently. Let's dive in!
To show the contrast between two properties, let's imagine you have an unordered list (`ul`) with a comment node (wrapped inside `<!-- and -->`), and three list items (`li`).
<!-- Here are some sample items -->

The children property

The `children` property is pretty handy. It lets you grab all of the child elements of an element, but not any non-element nodes like text or comment nodes.
Here's an example:
const parent = document.querySelector('ul');
const children = parent.children;

console.log(children.length); // 3
You can use the `querySelector` method to grab the list element, and then use the `children` property to get all of its child elements. Easy-peasy!

The childNodes property

On the other hand, the `childNodes` property returns all of the child nodes of an element, including non-element nodes like text or comment nodes.
To help you understand this concept better, here's an example:
const parent = document.querySelector('ul');
const childNodes = parent.childNodes;

console.log(childNodes.length); // 4
In this example, we use the `querySelector` method to select the list element. Then, we retrieve a collection of all the child nodes of the parent element using the `childNodes` property.
It's important to note that, unlike the `children` property, the `childNodes` property includes the comment node `<!-- Here are some sample items -->`. This is why the `childNodes.length` returns the number 4.
Good to know
Both `children` and `childNodes` return a collection of nodes that is constantly updated. To learn more, check out the Dynamic vs static NodeList post.
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Phước Nguyễn