What is Children’s Folklore?

Children’s folklore, childlore, and children’s folklife are terms we use to designate the folk culture and traditional expressions of children and youth. The definition of children’s peer cultures and its stylizations is dynamic and its scope is broad:

  • activities (games, riddles, pranks, speech acts, parody songs, legend tripping, etc.)
  • artifacts (paper airplanes, face-painting, body illusions, origami cootie catchers, etc.)
  • traditional knowledge (passing notes, spells for protection, cliquing, etc.)
  • storytelling (urban legends, ghost narratives, rumors, etc.).

Children constitute a distinctive group that shares many traditions, yet as with all folk groups, we must consider age, religion, race, ethnicity, region, economic class, and interests that can separate this folk group into other groups within the culture of childhoods. In essence, folklorists who study children folklore focus on those traditions that are learned, transmitted, and performed by children for children without formal instruction.

References:

Beresin, Anna R. 2010. Recess Battles: Playing, Fighting, and Storytelling Hardcover. Forward by Brian Sutton-Smith.  Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.

Grider, Silvia. 1997. “Children’s Folklore” in Folklore: An encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art edited by Thomas A. Green Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO Press.123-129

Mechling, Jay. 1986. “Children’s Folklore” in Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction, edited by Elliott Oring. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press. 91-120.

Sutton-Smith, Brian, Jay Mechling, Thomas W. Johnson, and Felicia R. McMahon. 1995. Children’s Folklore: A Source Book. New York, NY: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Tucker, Elizabeth. 2008. Children’s Folklore a Handbook. Westport, CT. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008

See also: Essential Texts for Children’s Folklore Studies, a wiki bibliography of foundational and representative books on children’s folklore.