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A rummage through our bookshelves! Some interesting and inspiring reading – fact and fiction – about childhood, play, community, streets and neighbourhoods.

Books on playing out
No Fear: Growing up in a Risk Averse Society

By our Expert Friend, Tim Gill. A thought-provoking analysis of our attitudes towards children and risk in society, this was an early source of inspiration that help shaped the Playing Out project.

The Story of Childhood: Growing up in Modern Britain

By Libby Brooks. A snapshot of what it’s like growing up in the UK, seen through the eyes of nine very different children.

St Cuthbert's Wild School for Boys

Written by one of Playing Out’s co-founders, Ingrid Skeels, this is an exciting story of discovery for anyone who cares about learning, play, nature and the wild.

The Lore of the Playground

By Steve Roud.

Toxic Childhood: How the Modern World is Damaging our Children

By Sue Palmer.

A Close Look at Playing Out by Ken Garland

Published by Ken Garland, British design legend and a keen supporter of Playing Out, this is a beautiful limited-edition book of childhood drawings by his daughter Ruth, remembering touching and funny moments of playing out on London streets with her ‘gang’ in the 1960s.  You can order it from Pudkin Books

Policy for Play - Responding to children's forgotten right

By our Expert Friend, Adrian Voce. Play is fundamental to children’s health, wellbeing and development. Yet in the modern world, their space and opportunity to play is under threat. This is the first book to look in detail at children’s play within public policy. Using the UK government’s play strategy for England (2008-10) as a detailed case study, it explores states’ obligations to children under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the General Comment of 2013.


Founder of the Playborhood ‘movement’ in the US, Mike Lanza documents his own and others’ efforts to resist the tide of increased car-dominance and create more people-friendly and playable neighbourhoods.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

Another major inspiration for Playing Out, Jane Jacob’s classic 1961 text turns conventional city and transport planning ‘wisdom’ on its head and looks at common-sense ways we could be making our cities better places to live, work and play. Chapter 4, ‘The Use of Sidewalks: Assimilating Children’ particularly looks at the importance of making space for play in our streets.

Street Reclaiming: Creating Liveable Streets and Vibrant Communities

David Engwicht, of ‘mental speed bump’ fame, brings insight, imagination and playfulness to the question of how we make our streets safer and more people-friendly. We hope he would approve of Playing Out!

Milly Molly Mandy Stories

A reminder of how much freedom children had less than a century ago and what this gave them.

Swallows and Amazons

A wonderful, classic 1930’s tale by Arthur Ransome of children free to roam in boats and on islands in the Lake District.  Lots more in the series.

The Family from One End Street
The Routledge Handbook on Spaces of Urban Politics

Includes a chapter by Helen Jarvis of Newcastle University, using Playing Out as a case study for the concept of ‘DIY urbanism’.


Play and Playwork: Notes and reflections in a time of austerity

Bringing together authors from a range of academic disciplines and research backgrounds – united as standard-bearers for the child’s right to play – and set against a backdrop evoking play’s critical essence, this book documents the rise and fall of an explosive period of political interest in play in the UK.

Includes a chapter by Alice Ferguson and Dr Angie Page – Supporting healthy street play on a budget: a winner from every perspective.


There's no such thing as bad weather

Book by a US/Swedish parent about the Scandinavian culture of outdoor play and bringing it to the US.


The Nurture Assumption

A book that debunks the idea that parents affect children’s personalities, and puts the case that their environment outside the home is far more important.


A powerful call for society to remember children’s deep need for freedom and belonging

Outdoor Games for Today's Kids
Parental supervision not required: the freedom of classic children's literature.

Article exploring children’s freedom in classic children’s literature.

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