In the 1960s, director Stanley Kubrick was interested in making a film adaptation of the novel, but blacklisted director Abraham Polonsky had already optioned it. Instead, Kubrick collaborated with Clarke on adapting the short story "The Sentinel" into what eventually became 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Months before his performance at Woodstock in 1969, folk singer and guitarist Richie Havens told Ebony magazine about his appreciation of Clarke's story and expressed his interest in working on a future film adaptation of Childhood's End. Screenplays by Polonsky and Howard Koch were never made into films.
Two British progressive rock bands coincidentally released songs based on the book in 1972. The first was Pink Floyd, with their song "Childhood's End" on the album Obscured by Clouds. Later in that same year, Genesis adapted part of the story into lyrics for their single "Watcher of the Skies". A third progressive rock band, Van der Graaf Generator, included the song "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" on their 1976 album Still Life.
David Elgood first proposed a radio adaptation of the novel in 1974, but nothing came of it in that decade.
Philip DeGuere, whose credits include the TV series Alias Smith and Jones, developed a script in the late 1970s for Universal, who planned to film it initially as a six-hour mini-series for CBS Television, and later as a two- or three-hour telemovie for ABC. However, Universal discovered that its contracts with Arthur C. Clarke - some of which dated back to 1957 - were out of date. These contractual difficulties were resolved in 1979 and DeGuere worked with legendary comic book artist Neal Adams on preproduction drawings and other material. The project had Clarke's approval. However Universal decided that the budget required would be nearly $40 million and they were only prepared to spend $10 million, so the movie was not made.
Director Brian Lighthill revisited the radio adaptation proposal and obtained the rights in 1995. After Lighthill received a go-ahead from BBC Radio in 1996, he commissioned a script from Tony Mulholland, resulting in a new, two-part adaptation. The BBC produced the two-hour radio dramatization of the novel, and broadcast it on BBC Radio 4 in November 1997. The recording was released on cassette by BBC Audiobooks in 1998 and on CD in 2007.
As of 2002, film rights to the novel were held by Universal Pictures, with director Kimberly Peirce attached to a project.
On October 28, 2008, Audible.com released a 7-hour 47 minute unabridged audiobook version of Childhood's End, narrated by Eric Michael Summerer, under its Audible Frontiers imprint. An AudioFile review commended Summerer's narration as "smoothly presented and fully credible". An audio introduction and commentary is provided by Canadian science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer.
On April 10, 2013, the Syfy Channel announced its plans to develop a Childhood's End TV miniseries. The three-episode, four-hour production premiered December 14, 2015. Charles Dance portrays the Supervisor Karellen.