“All work and no play make Jack a very dull boy.” While Stephen King used this old adage to poke fun in The Shining, many scholars have long considered play a very serious business. In the early nineteenth century, Friedrich Froebel, centered his educational methods for kindergartens on play. Since that time educators, psychologists and sociologists have demonstrated the value of play for learning, social skills, problem solving, physical development and a host of other benefits. This new encyclopedia explores the roles of play in human society. Numerous historical surveys provide background on types of amusement in ancient and traditional societies. Extra detail is provided on the history of play in Europe and the United States. Cross-cultural comparisons are provided in surveys of play in more than 90 regions around the globe. Many of the 461 essays describe historically important types of games. From backgammon, chess and mahjong to variations of Monopoly and Dungeons and Dragons, the popularity of board games is explored. Blackjack, casino and whist are among the dozens of card games explained. Essays on kick the can, marbles, charades and twenty questions discuss the differences between adult and children’s games. The development of outdoor games and team sports also is reviewed. Particular attention is given to the advent of video and online games. For each game, the origins, characteristics, historical popularity and learning benefits are outlined. However, detailed explanations of rules are generally avoided. From dolls and toy soldiers to teddy bears and LEGOs, both traditional and mass market toys are examined. The business of toys is traced in numerous corporate histories. Discussions of the value of recess and mother-child play demonstrate the roll of play in education. From costumes, fantasy and pretending to cooperation, game theory and social distinctions, special emphasis is placed on the psychology and sociology of play. Supplemental materials include a glossary, resource guide, statistics on leisure activities and the FTC report on the marketing of violent entertainment to children. This comprehensive examination of the world of play will prove a valuable asset to libraries supporting academic programs in education, leisure studies, psychology and sociology.