We evaluated the use of a mock scanner training protocol as an alternative for sedation and for preparing young children for (functional) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Children with severe mental retardation or developmental disorders were excluded. A group of 90 children (median age 6.5 years, range 3.65-14.5 years) participated in this study. Children were referred to the actual MRI investigation only when they passed the training. We assessed the pass rate of the mock scanner training sessions. In addition, the quality of both structural and functional MRI (fMRI) scans was rated on a semi-quantitative scale. The overall pass rate of the mock scanner training sessions was 85/90. Structural scans of diagnostic quality were obtained in 81/90 children, and fMRI scans with sufficient quality for further analysis were obtained in 30/43 of the children. Even in children under 7 years of age, who are generally sedated, the success rate of structural scans with diagnostic quality was 53/60. FMRI scans with sufficient quality were obtained in 23/36 of the children in this younger age group. The association between age and proportion of children with fMRI scans of sufficient quality was not statistically significant. We conclude that a mock MRI scanner training protocol can be useful to prepare children for a diagnostic MRI scan. It may reduce the need for sedation in young children undergoing MRI. Our protocol is also effective in preparing young children to participate in fMRI investigations.