Playing out in...

4 simple steps
Home > Inspiration > Books


Some interesting and inspiring reading – fact and fiction – about childhood, play, community, shared use of public space and anything relating to children playing out more.

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

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

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

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.

St Cuthbert's Wild School for Boys by Ingrid Skeels

Written by one of Playing Out’s Directors, this is an exciting story of discovery for anyone who cares about learning, play, nature and the wild.  See her website here

The Lore of the Playground
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 free play with her ‘gang’.  You can order it from Pudkin Books


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, 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
The Family from One End Street
Policy for Play - Responding to children's forgotten right

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.

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.

Do you want to stay inspired and informed?

sign up to Playing Out's blog