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How to convert the jQuery children() method to vanilla JS

Over the last few days, I’ve been converting various jQuery methods and plugins into vanilla JS. Today, we’re going to look at the jQuery children() method, and how to convert it to vanilla JS.

Let’s dig in!

What the jQuery children() method does

The jQuery children() method gets the direct child elements of each element in the set.

For example, let’s say you have HTML that looks like this.

<ul id="list">
	<li id="one">One</li>
	<li id="two" class="blue">
			<li id="a">A</li>
			<li id="b" class="blue">B</li>
			<li id="c" class="red">C</li>
			<li id="d">D</li>
	<li id="three">Three</li>
	<li  id="four" class="blue">Four</li>

The children() method called on the #list element would return #one, #two, #three, and #four, but not #a, #b, #c, or #d.

// Returns the `#one`, `#two`, `#three`, and `#four` elements

You can optionally filter by a selector.

Passing in the .blue class would return just the #two and #four elements.


Let’s look at how to do this with vanilla JS.

Getting child elements with vanilla JS

You can get the direct child elements of any element in vanilla JS with the .children property.

This example would return #one, #two, #three, and #four, but not #a, #b, #c, or #d.

var list = document.querySelector('#list');

// Returns the `#one`, `#two`, `#three`, and `#four` elements

Note: The .children property only returns elements. To get non-element nodes like text fragments and comments, use the .childNodes property instead.

Filtering results

What about filtering? There are a few ways to go about this.

First, we could convert the returned HTMLCollection into an array (with Array.from() or the hack) and use the Array.filter() method.

// Returns just the `#two` and `#four` elements
Array.from(list.children).filter(function (child) {
	return child.classList.contains('blue');

Alternatively, we could use querySelectorAll() on the list element instead.

Normally, querySelectorAll() will find all matching elements inside a parent, not just direct descendants. But, we can use the descendant selector (>) with the :scope property to look for direct child elements.

// Returns just the `#two` and `#four` elements
list.querySelectorAll(':scope > .blue');

Here’s a demo.

Browser compatibility

The .children property and querySelectorAll() method work back to IE9.

The Array.from() method works in all modern browsers, but not IE. It can be polyfilled, or you can use the hack instead.

The Array.filter() method works back to IE9. The :scope property works in all modern browsers, but not IE, and it cannot be polyfilled, unfortunately.