10 books directly related to play and playing 📚

All 10 play and playing books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

Why this book?

An evolutionary psychologist, Gray argues that human children, like all mammals, learn best through play. He advocates for a learning process that is kid- and play-driven. Using an innovative school as a model, Gray makes a compelling case for revolutionizing education by putting it in the hands of the kids themselves. Even if you can’t send your child to one of these schools, this book will give you many ideas on how to let your kids take charge of their own academic interests and pursuits which will ultimately help them grow up to take better charge of their own lives and happiness.

Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

By Peter Gray,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Free to Learn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Free to Learn , developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that in order to foster children who will thrive in today's constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development. Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, he demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. A brave, counterintuitive proposal for freeing our children from the shackles of the curiosity-killing institution we call school, Free to Learn suggests that it's time to stop asking what's wrong…

Book cover of Playful Parenting: An Exciting New Approach to Raising Children That Will Help You Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Confidence

Why this book?

This book is full of fun ideas for learning to play with your children at different ages, letting them lead the play. Play is a fundamental way to grow the brain at any age. So the approach is beneficial for parents as well as kids. Imagine playing as a way to solve behavior problems!

Playful Parenting: An Exciting New Approach to Raising Children That Will Help You Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Confidence

By Lawrence J. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Playful Parenting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Have you ever stepped back to watch what really goes on when your children play? As psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen points out, play is children’s way of exploring the world, communicating deep feelings, getting close to those they care about, working through stressful situations, and simply blowing off steam. That’s why “playful parenting” is so important and so successful in building strong, close bonds between parents and children. Through play we join our kids in their world–and help them to

• Express and understand complex emotions
• Break through shyness, anger, and fear
• Empower themselves and respect diversity
•…

Can I Play Too?

By Mo Willems,

Book cover of Can I Play Too?

Why this book?

This simple, sweet, picture book, like others in the Elephant and Piggy series, deals with different animals who are trying to solve a problem together. I liked the book because it portrays how differences don’t matter when you care about another. To show how differences can be overcome and not be reasons to divide is wonderful, especially when the concept is shown to the very young reader.

Can I Play Too?

By Mo Willems,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Can I Play Too? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Perfect for children just learning to read, this highly original book is told entirely in speech bubbles with a repetitive use of familiar phrases. From the award-winning author of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
Gerald is careful. Piggie is not.
Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can.
Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to.
Gerald and Piggie are best friends.

In Can I Play Too? Gerald and Piggie meet a new friend, Snake, who wants to join in a game of catch. But don't you need arms to catch...? Mo Willems creates another hilarious escapade starring the…


Chirri & Chirra, the Rainy Day

By Kaya Doi, David Boyd (translator),

Book cover of Chirri & Chirra, the Rainy Day

Why this book?

These two girls’ everyday adventure series! I adore these twin books since I am a twin myself! Color penciled illustration is always beautiful but I like how Kaya draws the rain here. You can see a drizzle, a shower, a downpour, and even an upside-down rain here. Surely the rain hater like myself can become a rain person.

Chirri & Chirra, the Rainy Day

By Kaya Doi, David Boyd (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chirri & Chirra, the Rainy Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One cloudy day, Chirri & Chirra decide to go out on their bicycles. Dring-dring, dring dring! It's already starting to rain. As is each of their adventures, this one is completely magical and full of wonder. It is also set in a world where, as if by magic (though perhaps it's the force of the creative imagination?), they always find what they need. Pedaling along, they discover a shop. What luck! The sign says it's only open on rainy days. How perfect. Chirri & Chirra order tea. Each is served tea with a bowl of sweet ice rocks. It's a…

Paul and Antoinette

By Kerascoët (illustrator),

Book cover of Paul and Antoinette

Why this book?

Two siblings with very different personalities. The fun of following these two characters grows with every scene. A very skillful, beautiful depiction of the richness of life and creative collaboration. A funny and endearing book.

Paul and Antoinette

By Kerascoët (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paul and Antoinette as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We have seen a few great odd couples in picture books already, but filled with possibility as the world is, there's always room for one more pair, especially if they are as charming and unforgettable as these pigs, born from the brushes and prolific imagination of Kerascoet. Kerascoet lives and works in Paris in the worlds of cartooning and illustration. Best known for illustrating the book Miss Don't Touch Me written by Hubert, as well as a couple of the Lewis Trondheim Dungeon books, their most recent book Beautiful Darkness broke out on the US scene in 2014, winning them…

I Don't Like Rain!

By Sarah Dillard,

Book cover of I Don't Like Rain!

Why this book?

I love this book. It brings back so many memories of growing up in the country for me. The illustrations in this book are very expressive and literally speak for themselves, no words necessary.

The day starts out pretty nice for a young bunny who is trying to get a game of kickball started.

He calls out to his neighboring animal friends to come out of their homes and play. They all step outside. There is the hedgehog, the skunk, the fox, the raccoon, and many more. All of a sudden, clouds roll in and everyone goes home except the bunny. He loves rain. This is a big book full of fun. I really enjoyed this book. For me, it's all about the illustrations. I do not like the rain. Getting caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella is no fun. But, this book reminded me of a time in my childhood, when a rainstorm meant running outside to jump in the puddles, get soaking wet, and not care at all. This book makes me feel like a kid again.

I Don't Like Rain!

By Sarah Dillard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Don't Like Rain! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A little rabbit discovers the delight in a dreary rainy day in this splashing sequel to the witty and whimsical picture book, I Wish it Would Snow.

One sunny day, Rabbit and his pals are playing outside and they couldn't be happier. But, oh, no!-the sky starts clouding up and before they know it, it's raining, it's pouring, and everyone has to run home. How boring! What will they do for the rest of the day?

It doesn't take long for Rabbit to realize that fun can be had in the rain. With raincoats, boots, and umbrellas, let the splashing…

Eat Pete

By Michael Rex,

Book cover of Eat Pete

Why this book?

A monster goes to Pete’s house with the intention to eat him. Pete asks the monster to play with various games and toys. The monster reluctantly does so, but each time the text goes, “He didn’t want to play...because he wanted to...EAT PETE!” Then something shocking happens – he eats Pete! Let me assure you, though, the ending is very sweet.  

Eat Pete

By Michael Rex,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eat Pete as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the creator of Goodnight Goon, a laugh-out-loud friendship story that perfectly captures the high and low moments of a typical playdate!

Pete couldn't be more thrilled when a monster shows up in his bedroom. Now Pete has someone to play with! And the hungry monster couldn't be more thrilled to be there, either. Now he can . . . EAT PETE!

But Pete has other ideas. And they are all good fun and quite distracting--things like playing cars and pirates. Well, we all know the course of playing together nicely never did run smoothly. So how much longer will…

Circle Round

By Anne Sibley O'Brien, Hanna Cha (illustrator),

Book cover of Circle Round

Why this book?

What can a circle be? It can be a ball, a bike tire, a bubble, a cookie, a balloon… A circle can also be people joined together in the spirit of love and acceptance. Circle Round has few words, but the illustrations pull readers into a world full of activity and fun. It’s a counting book that is both playful and profound. 

At the end of the book, I felt I was part of the circle myself.

Circle Round

By Anne Sibley O'Brien, Hanna Cha (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Circle Round as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A circle of children ask others to join in their play and soon find out that inclusion is irresistible!

From the author of I'm New Here and Someone New comes an inspiring new story of inclusion. One child in a park waves over a second child. Two children then wave over a third. Counting from one to ten, a growing circle of children see new faces outside the group and invite them over. Children of different abilities, ages, genders, and races demonstrate how easy it can be to expand your group, extend yourself, and welcome new friends.

Ruby's Sword

By Jacqueline Veissid, Paola Zakimi (illustrator),

Book cover of Ruby's Sword

Why this book?

Ruby’s Sword explores the type of imaginative play that can be had with natural world elements. Letting your kids explore nature in a tangible way does wonders for their learning and ingenuity. A simple stick turns into a sword, turning a little girl into a gallant knight. Our children do not need colourful plastic toys to have fun. All they need is a little fresh air and something as simple as a stick. Once my family moved out to the country, I saw my children transform before my eyes. Rocks have become treasures and bugs their newest friends. With the first signs of spring, socks are flung aside as their naked toes seek sand and grass. Let your kids fall in love with nature and it will be a love affair that lasts a lifetime. 

Ruby's Sword

By Jacqueline Veissid, Paola Zakimi (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ruby's Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ruby is always racing after her big brothers. But no matter how hard she tries, she can never catch up. Then one day, she discovers some sticks in the grass. Not just any sticks-swords! And suddenly the world is her kingdom. Readers will cheer on Ruby's perseverance and creativity as they delight in the antics of the adorable animals that join her along the way. Anyone who has ever imagined themselves the star of their own swashbuckling adventure will find this sweet book irresistible.

Book cover of What Is a Playhouse? England at Play, 1520-1620

Why this book?

Some of the most exciting discoveries in theatre history in recent years have been archaeological, not archival: the excavation of the Curtain theatre’s foundations in Shoreditch, for example, and the revelation that it was rectangular and much larger than previously thought. Davies’ new book capitalises on a series of such findings and complements them with his own rigorous archival work, putting pressure on the very concept of a ‘playhouse’ and what it can beor rather, what it meant to Shakespeare’s audiences.

What Is a Playhouse? England at Play, 1520-1620

By Callan Davies,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Is a Playhouse? England at Play, 1520-1620 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book offers an accessible introduction to England's sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century playing industry and a fresh account of the architecture, multiple uses, communities, crowds, and proprietors of playhouses.

It builds on recent scholarship and new documentary and archaeological discoveries to answer the questions: what did playhouses do, what did they look like, and how did they function? The book will accordingly introduce readers to a rich and exciting spectrum of "play" and playhouses, not only in London but also around England. The detailed but wide-ranging case studies examined here go beyond staged drama to explore early modern sport, gambling,…