Children’s Folklore

The games they play. The stories they tell. The songs they sing. Their rules of behaviour. This is all children’s folklore, and it is vibrant, active and very much alive.

Children’s folklore, says folklore scholar Brian Sutton-Smith, includes ghost stories, graffiti, parties, levitation games, slang, pranks, puns and parodies, initiation rituals, legends about school, toilet lore, insults, folk beliefs, skits, songs and verses, building forts, playing go-karts, toys, riddles, nicknames, jeers and torments, phone pranks (“I’m calling from the council? Can you check is your water running? Well, you’d better run after it...”), fortune telling, folklore, superstitions, kissing games, April Fool’s Day, customs and beliefs around Halloween, Christmas, and other calendar events including, for instance, witches and Santa Claus.

It is a varied and complex culture, passed from older children to slightly younger children. It can be conservative and ritualistic, but it can also be highly imaginative and inventive. In their play, children often represent the world they see around them, mimicking, caricaturing, and parodying, for instance, mothers, fathers, monsters, animals, teachers, and more. Children’s folk groups can consists of small playmates, siblings, school classes, football teams, Scout or Girl Guide groups, neighbourhood friends, and so on.

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