Library of Play

Research into play behaviors has expanded dramatically over the last decade producing a wealth of scientific literature.  

NIFP has invested hundreds of hours choosing and cataloging play- research articles, books and videos. This free library contributes to our mission to promote and share the science of play.


We have cataloged over 100 books on the science of play! Search or browse for basic introductory texts, books on playful education, and much more.

Research Articles

Explore more than 500 curated scientific articles by play researchers, with comments and ratings. Browse by subject or search abstracts.


We will keep growing our video collection with play-related presentations, interviews, and discussions with leading researchers.

Other Science-Based Resources About Play

American Journal of Play

Published three times a year, the American Journal of Play (AJP) is an Open Access peer-reviewed journal on the history, science, and culture of play. AJP features original peer-reviewed research, interviews, and book reviews that advance scholarly and public discussions around play, and is written in a straightforward style for a wide readership that includes scholars, educators, policymakers, museum and industry professionals, public health workers, and others who strive to understand the impact and importance of play in the world. AJP welcomes contributions in research areas such as:
  • play in learning and development from infancy to adulthood
  • cultural histories of playthings and ways of playing
  • practices of play therapy and health (physical, behavioral, mental)
  • intersections of play and gender, race, class, and sexuality
  • public policy issues involving and impacting play
  • historical and contemporary representations of play or players
  • evaluations of major themes and theories in traditional and emerging play scholarship

Encyclopedia of Play Science

NIFP began developing the interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Play Science on Scholarpedia, the peer-reviewed Open Access encyclopedia platform. Unfortunately, that work was interrupted by staff changes and loss of funding. The encyclopedia’s archives remain available on Scholarpedia. You can also search or browse encyclopedia articles in our Library of Play.
Six people gathered around a conference table in the Frost research library.
Members of the Frost Collection Advisory Board with Joe Frost (seated at head of table) and Stuart Brown (seated at right).

The Frost Play Research Collection

The Frost Play Research Collection was donated to the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, by teacher, researcher, and author Dr. Joe L. Frost. It is the largest collection of research materials on children’s play and play environments in the United States.

In addition to almost 2,000 cataloged play-related books and articles, the collection includes Dr. Frost’s play-related correspondence, research materials, and hundreds of play-related photographs.

International Journal of Play

Cover of the International Journal of Play

The International Journal of Play is a subscription-based, peer-reviewed academic journal published by Taylor & Francis three times per year.  IJP is the official journal of The Association for the Study of Play (TASP).

The IJP is an interdisciplinary journal that covers “all aspects of play theory, policy, and practice” in every conceivable context, and is written to appeal to everyone from anthropologists and educators to therapists and zoologists. The regular general interest feature “The State of Play” provides a venue for play practitioners and scholars to discuss the landscape of play research, and “Books Worth (Re)Reading” discusses “classic and overlooked books about play.”

The Lack of Play Has Consequences

Cover of the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics

A very important paper written by three child development experts concludes that our relatively recent, well-intentioned, propensity to guide and protect children (beginning in the 1980’s)  has had negative consequences. Our desire to protect and guide has deprived children and teens of opportunities for independent activities that earlier generations of children had. Research has shown that regular periods of independent activity are critical to holistic development of the individual.  

The abstract and a link to the full paper is in our Research Articles Library:  Decline in Independent Activity as a Cause of Decline in Children’s Mental Wellbeing: Summary of the Evidence

NIFP sees in this paper strong corroboration with findings of both Dr. Brown’s research in the 1960s & ‘70s on small samples of young men and the findings of many published lab animal experiments. The authors of this paper have identified a group of symptoms across all of society that parallel what was found in those smaller studies of young men and animals deprived of play in their early youth. 

 The article summarizes multiple lines of evidence that a major cause of the well-documented, continuous increase in anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts among young people over recent decades is the continuous decline, over those decades, in opportunities for children and teens to play, roam, and in other ways engage in activities independent of direct oversight and control by adults. Children who have more opportunities than others for independent activities are not only happier in the short run, because independent activities engender happiness and a sense of trustworthiness and competence, but also happier in the long run, because independent activities promote the growth of mental capacities for coping effectively with life’s inevitable stressors.

 The article concludes by noting that concern for children’s safety and the value of adult guidance needs to be tempered by recognition that, as children grow, they need ever increasing opportunity to manage their own activities independently. The article suggests ways by which this can be accomplished in today’s world and ways that pediatricians, family doctors, and public policy makers can help promote such change.

 The paper is authored by three highly reputed scholars:

The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children

Cover of the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clinical report “The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children” explains how and why play is key to young children having the physical, cognitive, and emotional foundations they need to succeed in life. The report summarizes research showing that play can improve children’s abilities to organize their world, be motivated to learn, relate to others, and regulate emotions — and retain those abilities in adulthood. In addition, play is a major contributor to learning language, math, and science.

The AAP found this report necessary because children’s free play time has been declining for decades. Children’s schedules are chock-full of adult-directed activities and dictated by the parental drive to ensure academic success. “The Power of Play” highlights research showing that free play time will better prepare youngsters for the academic demands of high school, college, and future employment than the currently widespread adult-directed activities that are blocking them from playtime. A rich bibliography of research is heavily cited throughout the report.

“The Power of Play” encourages pediatricians to prescribe play for their young patients, meaning that doctors should explain to parents how important play is. Pediatricians are also encouraged to advise parents to choose childcare and preschool programs that include playful approaches to learning. “The Power of Play” is free to download and is highly recommended reading.

Resources for Infant Educarers

RIE is a network of infant–toddler educators who are passionately dedicated to empowering parents and caregiving professionals to provide the secure and respectful beginnings that foster free play for children’s healthy development. RIE offers classes in Educaring — an approach to childcare based on the belief that caring for children educates the children, as well as the adults, about themselves. Caregiving in the infant and toddler years is the curriculum; the parent or caregiver is the “educarer.” Parents and professionals find that the Educaring Approach allows them to focus on what matters most: their connection with the baby in their care. When caretakers attune to their child, the child develops secure attachment and the parents learn to trust their baby and themselves.