The penicillins remain the class of antibiotics most commonly prescribed to children worldwide. In an era when the risks posed by antimicrobial resistance are growing, an understanding of antibiotic pharmacology and how to apply these principles in clinical practice is increasingly important. This paper provides an overview of the pharmacology of penicillins, focusing on those aspects of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and toxicity that are clinically relevant in paediatric prescribing. Penicillin allergy is frequently reported but a detailed history of suspected adverse reactions is essential to identify whether a clinically relevant hypersensitivity reaction is likely or not. The importance of additional factors such as antibiotic palatability, concordance and stewardship are also discussed, highlighting their relevance to optimal prescribing of the penicillins for children.