The use of functional MRI to evaluate risk to memory function following temporal lobe surgery in children cannot rely on adult tools. We present a novel fMRI paradigm that is brief, independent of reading ability, and therefore a candidate for presurgical evaluation. Data from 36 adults and 19 children (all healthy controls) show that the paradigm captures the expected leftward asymmetry of mesial temporal activation in adults. A more symmetrical pattern is observed in children, consistent with the emergence of hemispheric specialisation across childhood. These data have important implications for the interpretation of presurgical memory fMRI in the paediatric setting.