Given the expansive nature of children's food, banning the advertising of poorly nutritious products to children only deals with part of the problem. What is missing is an understanding of how child-oriented food marketing has reconfigured children's broader perceptions of what food means and the kinds of foods that are ‘for them’. Drawing from focus groups conducted across Canada, this article examines the perspectives of 225 children who discussed both ‘kids' food’ and ‘adult food’. The research reveals the broader implications of particular food marketing strategies. When children think of ‘kids' food’, they generally think of junk food, sugar, sugary cereals and the fun shapes and unusual colours characterizing much of contemporary child-oriented packaged food. When children think of ‘adult food’, they think of fruits, vegetables and meat. In short, ‘adult foods’ are generally the unprocessed fruits, vegetables and meats that all North Americans should be consuming more of, whereas ‘kids' foods’ are associated with processed, high-sugar, low-nutrient edibles. The paper further reveals how ‘kids' food’ functions as an object or technology of identification for children enacted through a set of characteristics that the edibles share. Children's classification of food also reveals their savvy awareness that both ‘kids' food’ and ‘adult food’ can contain transgressive elements. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.