Histiocytic disorders are rare entities that are becoming more recognized as our understanding of the molecular pathogenesis lead to novel diagnostic tests and targeted drug development. A symposium held at the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASPHO) 2013 Annual Meeting discussed new insights into histiocytic disorders. This review highlights the symposium presentations, divided into three sections encompassing Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) and Rosai Dorfman disease (RDD) including subsections on pathogenesis, clinical diagnostic criteria and novel insights into treatment. Details of other histiocytic disorders as well as the standard treatment guidelines have been published elsewhere and are beyond the scope of this discussion [Haupt et al. (2013). Pediatr Blood Cancer 60:175–184; Henter et al. (2007). Pediatr Blood Cancer 48:124–131].