We studied 30 children, aged 4 to 12 years, undergoing elective circumcision, premedicated with midazolam 0.5 mg.kg-1 and atropine 0.02 mg.kg-1 by mouth. A modified postbox test and the coding component of the Wechsler intelligence scale (WISC-R) was used to assess the preoperative effect of premedication on psychomotor function. Mood and sedation were also scored and related to serum midazolam concentrations. The children showed a significant decline in psychomotor performance 30 and 60 minutes after premedication when compared with their best unmedicated performance recorded the previous evening. This decline in psychomotor performance was only weakly associated with serum midazolam concentrations (r = 0.1). The postbox toy ratio is a suitable measurement of psychomotor performance in children because of its simplicity and ease of use in the clinical environment, although it may suffer the "test-retest" limitations of similar types of assessment. The sedative and anxiolytic effects of midazolam provide a quiet environment for a smooth induction of anaesthesia.