Since the early 1990s participation has grown to become a key notion amongst child-focused international and intergovernmental development organisations. By means of participatory projects such bodies commonly seek to achieve transformation of children's lives. While considerable consideration has been given to the technical, institutional and attitudinal challenges to achievement of this goal, far less attention has been paid to the political context in which such transformation is sought. Drawing upon the emerging critique of (adult) participatory development, this article seeks to illustrate the inherent limitations of child participation resulting from the failure to confront the workings of power associated with capitalist expansion. It argues that societal change leading to the realisation of the rights of impoverished and marginalised children requires greater political will and new forms of alliance amongst international child-focused development organisations.