Ultrasonography may offer significant advantages in regional anaesthesia of the upper and lower limbs. It is not known if the same advantages demonstrated in adults also apply to children. We therefore performed a prospective, randomised study comparing ultrasound visualisation to conventional nerve stimulation for infraclavicular brachial plexus anasesthesia in children. Forty children scheduled for arm and forearm surgery underwent infraclavicular brachial plexus blocks with ropivacaine 0.5 ml.kg−1 guided by either nerve stimulation or ultrasound visualisation. Evaluated parameters included sensory block quality, sensory block distribution and motor block. All surgical procedures were performed under brachial plexus anaesthesia alone. Direct ultrasound visualisation was successful in all cases and was associated with significant improvements when compared with the use of nerve stimulation: lower visual analogue scores during puncture (p = 0.03), shorter mean (median) sensory onset times (9 (5–15) min vs. 15 (5–25) min, p < 0.001), longer sensory block durations (384 (280–480) min vs. 310 (210–420) min, p < 0.001), and better sensory and motor block scores 10 min afrter block insertion. Ultrasound visualisation offers faster sensory and motor responses and a longer duration of sensory blockade than nerve stimulation in children undergoing infraclavicular brachial plexus blocks. In addition, the pain associated with nerve stimulation due to muscle contractions at the time of insertion is eliminated.