Child's play is a patterned behavior, not nearly so simple as popularly believed, and this graciously compact examination of its many aspects is an ideal reference for educated parents and anyone working with young children. Garvey reports on the most relevant research and theory (Sutton-Smith, Chukovsky, Vygotsky, the Opies), pursues the biological sources of play (one chapter follows ""The Natural History of the Smile""), and considers its psychological and creative ramifications. Unlike Piaget who has analyzed play's cognitive functions, Garvey emphasizes its social nature and dependence on context for definition and evaluation. She considers play in five basic situations: with motion and interaction, with objects, with language (reproducing one child's ""music to iron a fish by""), with social materials, and with rules, and extends our knowledge of children's conversational habits. An exceptionally lucid monograph which provides razor-sharp judgments without sacrificing the natural exuberance of its subject.