Written By: Lily Rothman, Liz Ronk

When is the best time to celebrate children? Across the world, in nations from China to Cuba, June 1 marks what is now widely known as International Children’s Day, though some other nations mark it at different times throughout the year, and In November, the U.N. has its own Universal Children’s Day in November.

How about every day? It’s always a good time to celebrate the lives of children and remember the importance of protecting them so that they can fulfill their boundless potential. 

Here, LIFE presents images that capture the breadth of experience of children around the world. Funny or serious, cute or moving, happy or sad, the kids shown here illustrate in their own ways an element that makes childhood special. They may be small, but their inner lives, as captured on film by LIFE’s expert photographers, are anything but.

Chinese-American children in San Francisco, 1936.

Chinese-American children in San Francisco, 1936.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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A boy was engrossed in playing marbles, US, 1937.

Pictures Inc. The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Eskimo child in Canada, 1937.

An eskimo child in Canada, 1937.

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A young Rumanian boy, 1938.

A young Rumanian boy, 1938.

John Phillips The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Children in blitzed north of England, 1940.

Children in the blitzed north of England, 1940.

Hans Wild The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Young boy in the Tungkwan area of China, 1941.

A young boy in the Tungkwan area of China, 1941.

Carl Mydans The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A farmer's son holding a pair of Hampshire piglets on farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1943.

A farmer’s son held a pair of Hampshire piglets on farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1943.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Child actress Margaret O'Brien and her spaniel pet Maggie sharing a bubble bath, Los Angeles, Calif., 1944.

Child actress Margaret O’Brien and her spaniel pet Maggie shared a bubble bath, Los Angeles, 1944.

Marie Hansen The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Children having military parade in street in Tarrytown, N.Y., 1944.

These children had their own military parade in Tarrytown, N.Y., 1944.

Eliot Elisofon The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Three children graduating kindergarten in the U.S., 1945.

These children had just graduated kindergarten, 1945.

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Austrian girl and her doll, 1946.

An Austrian girl and her doll, 1946.

Nat Farbman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Native American boy of the Chochiti tribe playing drum outside his home, Sante Fe, New Mexico in 1947.

A Native American boy of the Chochiti tribe played the drum outside his home, Sante Fe, New Mexico in 1947.

W. Eugene Smith The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

David Henseley, young child crippled by polio with both legs in braces, soliciting funds in public fund-raising driver for a new polio hospital. High Point, N.C., 1948.

David Henseley, suffering from polio, solicited funds for a new polio hospital. High Point, N.C., 1948.

Martha Holmes The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Four year old Flora and her sister Jacqueline Couch in Leslie County, Kentucky, 1949.

Four year old Flora and her sister Jacqueline Couch in Leslie County, Kentucky, 1949.

Eliot Elisofon The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Three young boys eating a Red Cross meal in Arizona, 1950.

Three young boys ate a Red Cross meal in Arizona, 1950.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Koo Ri Kang, a Korean war orphan who would not smile in South Korea, 1951.

Koo Ri Kang, a Korean war orphan who would not smile, in South Korea, 1951.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Nine year old prodigy, Hansan Kaptan, Turkish child, has an exhibition at a gallery in Paris, France, 1951.

Hansan Kaptan of Turkey, a nine-year-old prodigy, had an exhibition at a gallery in Paris, France, 1951.

Gordon Parks The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Child standing beside a miniature horse, showing size comparison, Los Angeles, Calif., 1952.

A child stood beside a miniature horse, Los Angeles, Calif., 1952.

Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A Jamaican girl scout with surprised look as she watches the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II. Jamaica, 1953.

A young Jamaican girl scout watched the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II. Jamaica, 1953.

Cornell Capa The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Group of Boys Club little league baseball players putting on their uniforms while sitting in classroom, Manchester, NH, 1954.

A group of Boys Club little league baseball players put on their uniforms while sitting in a classroom, Manchester, N.H., 1954.

Yale Joel The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Children hard at work at school in Iowa, 1954.

Children hard at work at school in Iowa, 1954.

Gordon Parks The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A little girl looking at doll through a window, Westchester, NY, 1955.

A little girl looked at a doll through a window, Westchester, NY, 1955.

Ralph Morse The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Laughing boy on street in Trastevere, Rome, 1958.

A laughing boy on the street in Trastevere, Rome, 1958.

Carlo Bavagnoli The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Little boys sleeping on a subway car in New York, NY, 1959.

Little boys visiting from Chicago with their family slept on a subway car in New York, NY, 1959.

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sandra Kunhardt pretending she is a doll in the US, 1961.

Sandra Kunhardt pretended she was a doll, 1961.

George Silk The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A group of children in India, 1963.

A group of children in India, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

PARIS

Children watched the story of St. George and the dragon at the puppet theater in the Tuileries in Paris, France, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A young child in Vietnam, 1965.

A young child in Vietnam, 1965.

Paul Schutzer The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Children in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif., 1966.

Children in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, 1966.

Bill Ray The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Children at a school in Lancaster County, Penn., photographed with a Polaroid SX-70 camera, 1972.

Children at a school in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1972.

Co Rentmeester The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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