Like any new specialty, paediatric palliative medicine is facing challenges as it establishes itself. While many of the required core skills have their roots in adult palliative medicine, its practitioners come from a range of paediatric backgrounds that include oncology, community paediatrics, neurodisability and acute pain. Such heterogeneity has been invaluable in bringing together the diverse set of skills and competencies needed by children and families facing life-limiting illness. At the same time, it brings its own challenges in establishing consistent standards of clinical expertise, education and research–essential if children are to have access to the same degree of medical expertise in palliative care already available to most adults. This article traces the origins of palliative care in children, examines its current strengths and challenges, and considers how those might shape its future.