Author: Dorothy Canfield Fisher
urban early childhood, Betsy gets a new start in the country. She and her mother are wary of rural ways, and yet a more natural
life involving walks outdoors, cooking and helping with household tasks in a country home make a new child of her.
Henry Holt and Company.
Locomotor, Mastery play*
(Note: Ms. Canfield brought Montessori methods to North America, having worked
with Maria Montessori in Rome)
Little House on the Prairie
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrator: Garth Williams
How do you play on the wild prairie? There are no toys—baby Carrie plays with
bits of wood, though—and Laura’s sister Mary is awfully good. But still, they run through the tall grasses,
watch gophers and dickie birds by the hour, travel unseen through grass tunnels, comfort the dog and pet the pony. And, most
wonderful of all for those of us who are reading this detail-packed, swiftly-moving, emotionally satisfying tale, Laura engages
us in her memories of mastery play, as Laura helps Pa build their log cabin with found materials and lost-to-us skills.
1935, Harper & Brothers.
Imaginary, Locomotor, Mastery
Author and illustrator: Elizabeth Enright
Four youngsters living in wartime New York decide to pool their allowances each Saturday afternoon to provide each,
in turn, with an independent adventure of their own devising. Mona, Rush, Randy and little Oliver achieve small triumphs and
make big mistakes. If you had money in your pocket, the freedom of the city, and a Saturday afternoon all to yourself, what
would you do?
Henry Holt and Company, 1941
All play types*
The Witch Family
Author: Eleanor Estes
Illustrator: Edward Ardizzone
Amy and her friend
Clarissa amuse themselves by the hour drawing wicked witches. Amy makes the story, and Amy makes the rules, but even when
‘banquished’ to her glass hill, Old Witch remains a frightening force. The little girls tell the story, and sometimes
even find themselves inside the story. They treat Old Witch with severity and kindness, at once controlling her and gifting
her with a family to love, that she may become good.
But not too good! Oh, the hurley-burley!
Harcourt, Brace, 1960.
Play, Imaginative Play, Fantasy Play* (see our page on play types for the differences among these types of play, from Bob
Hughes’s Handbook ‘A Playworker’s Taxonomy of Play Types’)
EdEstes, E. (1960). The witch
family. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
by Jill Murphy
Bear asks permission to go… to the moon. Objects found around the home become space helmet, boots and rocket, and off
his imagination sends him into outer space, to be back by dinner.
*Object play, Imaginative Play, Fantasy Play
Back in the Jug Agane
by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle
Nigel Molesworth is the king of *Imaginary Play, and
a brilliant example of a kid using what he learns in school and in life to feed his imagination and lead an independent child’s
life. His spirit is high and his spelling is invented.
These books are outrageous, true at heart and fall-down
funny, as any fule kno.
Penguin Pocket Classics, 1959. The complete collection includes Down With Skooll, How to be Topp, Back in the Jug Agane
and Whizz for Atomms.
Swallows and Amazons
Author and Illustrator: Arthur Ransome
We meet the four children waiting for permission to live an independent play life of the most desirable sort: will
they be allowed to camp on their own on Wild Cat Island and sail their little boat freely in the Lake District? The story
is based on Ransome’s own experiences as a child around the turn of the last century, and is rich in play experiences
of every sort, from creative to recapitulative, including an Australian mother who understands play cues and when to step
back and let the children be children together.
1929. Red Fox, publishers
All play types*
The Otterbury Incident
Author: C.Day Lewis
A group of children playing out their
war in post-war bomb sites band together to help a pal in trouble. This wonderful novel of friendship, competition, honour
and play was written by Britain's Poet Laureate and illustrated by one of the greatest pen-and-ink illustrators of the Twentieth
Puffin Books, London. 1948.
*All play types. Junkyard play in its original British form
Author: Maud Hart Lovelace
Illustrator: Lois Lensky
in the Betsy-Tacy series. This is a story of two little girls and how they played together. Set in the American Mid-West in
the late 19th Century, Lovelace brings her memories of rich play as a child to this tale, and you can find just about every
play type mentioned and described in loving detail.
All play types*
The Boy From the Sun
Author: Duncan Weller
In a cold, gray concrete world three children sit, blank and sad,
until a boy with
a yellow shining head floats down among them. He
leads them through the streets that fill with imagined colors and
beings, and as they run they leave behind the concrete world for the
green spaces outside. The boy from the sun leaves
them a poem, and
then leaves them to play freely on the grass beneath the trees.
Simply Read Books, Canada,
play, Imaginative play*
Le cochon dans la mare
Author's. Martin Waddell, Jill Barton
(English title: The Pig in the Pond) Trad. Elisabeth Duval
A pig is left on the farm when Vieux Bill rides
into town. But it’s hot, and getting hotter—and the water looks so good. Still, everyone knows that pigs don’t
swim. Ducks do, though, and they’re having fun. And even though everyone knows that pigs don’t swim, this pig
decides to splash in anyway! And oh it’s lovely—until the ducks sound the alarm: “Le cochon est dans la
mare! Le cochon est dans la mare!” All the animals run to stare, followed by Vieux Bill himself, who hooks his thumbs
into his vest…and then off with hat, boots and coat, and soon everyone is in the pond together, keeping cool and happy.
Publisher: Kaleidescope 1992
The Strange and Wonderful Tale of Robert McDoodle (The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Dog)
By Steven Bauer
Illustrated by Brad Sneed
For his sixth birthday, Robert McDoodle doesn’t want anymore stuff. No—he wants the life of a dog.
With First Grade looming, he has no desire to sit still at a desk, and so he runs away to the Jellicoe School for Dogs. But
it’s hard for a boy to fit in, to wear a collar—and to go by the name of Spot. He works hard, though, doing his
best to learn all the doggie skills—“Barking at Squirrels”, for example, and “Jumping (with Mud) on
the Clean Skirts of Girls”—even when he finds out that dogs have to drink from the toilet. Oh, it’s a dog’s
life all right and finally Robert starts to wonder whether he really wants to be, at age six, forty-two in dog years!
Simon & Schuster,
New York 1999
* Imaginative Play
Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850–1894).
A Good Play
We built a ship upon the stairs
made of the back-bedroom chairs,
And filled it full of sofa pillows
To go a-sailing on the billows.
We took a saw and several nails,
And water in the nursery pails;
And Tom said, "Let us also take
An apple and a slice
Which was enough for Tom and me
To go a-sailing on, till tea.
We sailed along for days and days,
And had the very best of plays;
But Tom fell out
and hurt his knee,
So there was no one left but me.
A Child's Garden of Verses
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Happy hearts and happy faces
play in grassy places
That was how, in ancient ages,
Children grew to kings and sages.
The Run, Jump, Bump Book
By Robert Brooks
Illustrated by David M. McPhail
Theresa is a child in the city, and there’s the rub. She loves her home, but it’s four floors up and she’s
not allowed out on the streets alone. Her mother can’t drop everything to take her daughter downstairs and outside whenever
Theresa has the yen to run, jump or bump. So Theresa does her best indoors—but there’s not far to run in the hall,
she can only jump on her parents’ bed when her dad’s not working at his desk, and when she bumps around her mother
says, “Theresa. That’s an outdoor noise.” Low on privacy and space to be a kid, the highlight of her week
is when her dad takes her down streets and over bridges to a great green space—where Theresa can run, jump, and bump
until the stars come out above the lights of the city.
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, Boston. 1971
When Giants Come to Play
Author: Andrea Beaty
Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes
An enchanting tale of Anna and her favorite playmates—the Giants. Anna and the Giants love their games—games
in the back garden, games that we all know and remember. But when Giants play catch, you get to be the ball. When they play
cars, they play with real cars. And of course when they play dolls with Anna’s big sister, she’s the doll. They
are wonderful companions, the Giants, and as they say goodnight, Anna dreams of the day they’ll come to stay.
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006
Rough and tumble play
The Salamander Room
Author: Anne Mazer
Illustrator: Steve Johnson
Brian brings home a salamander to live in his room and to sleep by his bed, but his mother asks how it will
live in an environment not its own.
Brian envisions his room as it transforms into a biome totally suited to a
salamander—rocks and leaves carpet the floor, a stream runs through and finally the roof lifts away to allow the birds
to visit and rain to fall.
Beautiful, lyrical prose—this is a love letter from a boy to a salamander.
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991
You’ve Got Dragons
Author - Kathryn Cave
A child imagines dragons all around him, scary and enormous and always hanging about.. he imagines
dragons so successfully that he even has to try to pretend they’re not there!
Publishers - Hodder Great
Peachtree Atlanta 2003
The Daddy Mountain
by Jules Feiffer (Author and Illustrator)
A daring young girl climbs the most perilous mountain of all—the Daddy mountain. Begin at the ankles, hang on
and struggle to the top. You can feel the sweat, the strain, the terror of the heights—and the triumph of our young
Publisher - Hyperion Books for Children, 2004
Deep & Locomotor Play*
by Alice Mclerran (Author), Barbara Cooney (Illustrator)
A group of children play in a town they've created in the desert near
their school, scratching out streets and lots
for houses, riding
horses as fast as the wind, but driving cars at respectable speeds.
social, communicative and ancient play, where
children make the rules and the magic of imagination provides infinite
fun. When children are involved in freely chosen, self directed and intrinsically motivated play,
they are more likely to respect and include each other, and give each other
where needed. We see the fun and the involvement in this tale of
happy kids playing freely and undirected by adults.
Publisher - HarperCollins, 1990
Social Play, Recapitulative