Australian Children's Folklore Collection


The Australian Children’s Folklore Collection (ACFC) was developed from research begun in the 1970s by Dr June Factor and Dr Gwenda Davey. It now consists of more than 10 000 card files and other documents listing children’s games, rhymes, riddles, jokes, superstitions and other kinds of children’s folklore, together with photographs, audio cassettes, video tapes, play artefacts and a number of specialist collections of children’s lore. The archive continues to grow and is accessible to researchers. It is utilised by scholars from a variety of disciplines, as well as writers, journalists and others interested in childhood.

The Australian Children’s Folklore Collection is the first Museum Victoria collection to be placed on the prestigious UNESCO Australian Memory of the World register.

Donations of material continue to be received, and financial support from individuals and institutions is welcomed.


Play and Folklore logo

Play and Folklore was published bi-annually between 1981 and 2016 by Museums Victoria’s Humanities Department as forum for discussion about childhood and children's culture. It included articles, letters, memoirs and research studies that examined what children do when largely free of adult direction or control — their colloquial speech, songs, games, rhymes, riddles, jokes, insults and secret languages, their friendships and enmities, their beliefs and hopes. Play and Folklore was previously published as the Australian Children's Folklore Newsletter (1981-1996).

Play and Folklore was edited by June Factor, Gwenda Beed Davey and Judy McKinty. Every issue of Play and Folklore is available through Museums Victoria’s website


The Australian Children’s Folklore Collection classifies children’s folklore as either folklore of children, or folklore for and about children, depending on whether the main persons transmitting the lore are children or adults.

Folklore of children consists largely of play lore, such as rhymes, games, taunts, jokes and riddles. Folklore for and about children consists of those traditional songs, games, finger plays, stories, proverbs and sayings that are passed on informally by adults.

“Wash the dishes” game. Government school playground, Melbourne, 1954.
Source: Australian Children’s Folklore Collection, Museum Victoria


Play Lore

The Collection holds over 10 000 cards and other written material recording children’s playlore. Most informants were children, but material has also been collected from adults. The material reaches back to the 1870s, but most was collected after 1970. The material held on cards includes:

  • Riddles
  • Parodies
  • Rhymes for fun
  • Jokes
  • Clapping games and rhymes
  • Ball bouncing games and rhymes
  • Skipping games and rhymes
  • Counting out rhymes
  • Charms and divinations
  • Autograph album entries
  • Taunts and insults
  • War cries
  • Other games

Slingshot, early 1980s and card files of children’s rhymes, jokes and games.
Source: Australian Children’s Folklore Collection, Museum Victoria

Memories of Aboriginal Childhoods

This collection consists of interviews with Aboriginal adults and children living in Victoria, collected between 1991and 1997, as well as audiotapes, fieldwork data sheets and photographs. The collection is funded by the Stegley Foundation and some access restrictions apply.

Games of the Past

This is a small collection of adult memories of childhood games and pastimes. Folklore collected from adults can also be found in other sections of the archive, including Play Lore, and the audiotapes made by Norman O’Connor and Wendy Lowenstein.

Debney Meadows – the Multicultural Playground

In 1984 researcher Heather Russell conducted an ethnographic study of the playground at Debney Meadows Primary School – a multicultural, inner-suburban primary school in Melbourne. It chronicles playground life, games, rhymes, and the relationships between children. The material includes playground observations, photographs and videos of playground activities and audio cassettes of interviews with children from different cultural backgrounds. The project is documented in the publication Play and Friendships in a Multicultural Playground.

“Straight arm” elastics game, Debney Meadows Primary School, 1984.
Source: Australian Children’s Folklore Collection, Museum Victoria

Dorothy Howard Collection

This collection was developed by renowned American folklorist Dr Dorothy Howard during her 10 months in Australia (1954-55). It contains original notes and descriptions of some 1 000 games from all over Australia, dating back to the 1870s, as well as playground rhymes, taunts, jokes and a file of play language and terminology. It also includes Dr Howard’s published articles on Australian children’s folklore, photographs, play artefacts, memorabilia and correspondence from child and adult informants. In 2005, Museum Victoria published compilation of Dr Howard's articles in Child's Play, edited by Kate Darian-Smith and June Factor.

American children's folklorist Dorothy Howard watching Australian boys playing marbles, c.1954-55.
Source: Australian Children’s Folklore Collection, Museum Victoria.

You’re IT!

You’re IT! was an exhibition at Museum Victoria’s former Children’s Museum between December 1988 and July 1993. Written descriptions of games and rhymes were collected from visitors to the exhibition. Other material includes videos, audio cassettes, photographs and playthings related to the exhibition

Cinderella Dressed in Yella

This collection consists of play rhymes collected for the first edition of Professor Ian Turner’s compilation, Cinderella Dressed in Yella (Heinemann Ed. 1969), and for the second, enlarged edition compiled and edited by Ian Turner, June Factor and Wendy Lowenstein (Heinemann Ed. 1978). Included are two audio cassettes of a 1968 lecture on children’s rhymes by Ian Turner.

Lore and Language 1970s – 1990s

This collection contains material collected and written by undergraduate and postgraduate students at the Institute of Early Childhood Development, Melbourne (now part of the Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne) in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Fieldwork includes research papers, photographs and audio cassettes.

Regional Collection

The Regional Collection includes material collected from children in Burnie, Tasmania, August 1990, by June Factor; slides of children’s games taken during the Moe Folklife Project, 1995, conducted by Gwenda Davey; and recollections of play and verbal lore collected by June Factor and Gwenda Davey from undergraduates at the University of Queensland, August 1998.

Childhood, Tradition and Change project

Childhood, Tradition and Change is a nation-wide study that documents and analyses the historical development of Australian children's playlore over a fifty year period. Funded by the Australian Research Council Linkage Project Scheme (LP0663282), with support from the University of Melbourne, Deakin University, Curtin University of Technology, the National Library of Australia and Museum Victoria, research for the project was carried out over four years (2007-2010). Data collection was completed in 2010 and the investigators are now analysing the material in order to produce the first comprehensive national study of continuity and change in children's playlore from the 1950s to the present. A publicly accessible database of games and play documented by the Childhood, Tradition and Change project is available at Videos and oral histories from this project are held by Museum Victoria.

Play Artefacts

The ACFC holds over 300 folkloric play objects from Australia and overseas. Material includes traditional playthings such as marbles, knucklebones, home-made dried-apple dolls and wire cars.

Rattle, USA, c.1900.
Source: Australian Children’s Folklore Collection, Museum Victoria

This collection is complemented by other children’s play artefacts in the Museum’s collections.

Vietnamese counting game, 1992.
Source: Australian Children’s Folklore Collection, Museum Victoria


The Multicultural Cassette Series: Field Recordings

This collection consists of about 500 items of folklore told to children by adults in Arabic, Croatian, English, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Serbian, Spanish and Turkish. There is a manual in English and English translations of Italian and Greek material. All items are indexed. It was collected by Gwenda Davey, mainly in 1976 and 1977. The material includes various elements of children’s play and lore, such as baby play, ball bouncing, circle games and rhymes, clapping, counting out, lullabies, games, rhymes, poems, songs and stories. There are also two cassettes of Pitjantjatjara songs and stories.

Folklore for Children Project

This material, including two videotapes, was collected in the 1980s from both English and non-English speaking communities, mainly by students at the Institute of Early Childhood Development and the Footscray Institute of Technology. Informants have listed their repertoire of folklore in current use, with some instructions, including a more detailed catalogue of the collection.

Old Wives’ Tales

A collection of beliefs, folk sayings and tales about birth and pregnancy. They are in English, although some cross-cultural items are included. They were collected in the 1970s – 1980s.


Play & Folklore

Play and Folklore is a forum for discussion about childhood and children's culture. It publishes articles, letters, memoirs and research studies that examine what children do when largely free of adult direction or control – their colloquial speech, songs, games, rhymes, riddles, jokes, insults and secret languages, their friendships and enmities, and their beliefs and hopes.

Play and Folklore welcomes and publishes contributions from all parts of the world. Two issues, edited by June Factor, Gwenda Davey and Judy McKinty, are published by Museum Victoria every year. These are accessible on the Museum Victoria website at

Library Holdings

Books, journals, and some audio and videotapes associated with the Collection are housed at the Education Resource Centre, University of Melbourne. Copies of some ACFC audiotapes are held at the National Library in Canberra.

For Further information about the Collection

Inquiries can be directed to our helpful Discovery Centre staff. They will enter your details into the inquiry database before forwarding them on to Museum Victoria’s curatorial staff.

The Discovery Centre
Museum Victoria
PO Box 666
Melbourne, Vic 3001
Phone:  +61 3 8341 7111
Fax:    +61 3 8341 7788

Comments (9)

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haftay g/egziabher 26 May, 2009 22:38
Jean-Pierre Rossie 25 June, 2009 17:23
As a sociocultural anthropologist researching Saharan, North African and Amazigh (Berber) children's play, games and toys I want to express my admiration for what the Australian Children's Folklore Collection has achieved. Seeing that you are interested in children's toys from all over the world you might be interested to get some toys made by Anti-Atlas children from Southern Morocco. Best greetings. Jean-Pierre Rossie
mia 26 May, 2010 14:02
very helpful information and it helped me alot for my school work!
Gracie 26 May, 2010 14:03
Heyy it is sooooo cool beyyy!!!!!!:):):):):)
Pam 9 June, 2010 03:09
so glad that someone is making an effort to preserve oral culture that is fading away.
janelle jackson 11 April, 2012 21:13
reading through the australian childrens folklore collection ,brought back so many memories of my childhood here in melbourne and in tasmania ,of the games and clapping rythmes my four sisters and i played with each other, with all our friends and family members .thank you to the melbourne museum for recording all these things in books and putting this kind of thing on your website for all australians to look up and remember what it was like when we were children and what we did to amuse and educate ourselves during our childhood years and for those people who will continue to study and record this kind of information for the generations in the future to read and learn about .
Pat 25 September, 2012 00:57
I am from the USA and my cousin and I used to play "Wash the dishes, dry the dishes, turn the dishes over" when we were kids in the 50s in central Texas. We thought it was a Texas thing!
play centre 28 September, 2013 06:03
Wow what a fantastic looking centre.
indoor play centre 21 October, 2013 06:42
great information............
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