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Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

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Read Stuart Brown's posts on the Penguin Blog. From a leading expert, a groundbreaking book on the science of play, and its essential role in fueling our intelligence and happiness throughout our lives. We’ve all seen the happiness in the face of a child while playing in the school yard. Or the blissful abandon of a golden retriever racing with glee across a lawn. This is th Read Stuart Brown's posts on the Penguin Blog. From a leading expert, a groundbreaking book on the science of play, and its essential role in fueling our intelligence and happiness throughout our lives. We’ve all seen the happiness in the face of a child while playing in the school yard. Or the blissful abandon of a golden retriever racing with glee across a lawn. This is the joy of play. By definition, play is purposeless and all-consuming. And, most important, it’s fun. As we become adults, taking time to play feels like a guilty pleasure—a distraction from “real” work and life. But as Dr. Stuart Brown illustrates, play is anything but trivial. It is a biological drive as integral to our health as sleep or nutrition. In fact, our ability to play throughout life is the single most important factor in determining our success and happiness. Dr. Brown has spent his career studying animal behavior and conducting more than six thousand “play histories” of humans from all walks of life—from serial murderers to Nobel Prize winners. Backed by the latest research, Play explains why play is essential to our social skills, adaptability, intelligence, creativity, ability to problem solve, and more. Play is hardwired into our brains—it is the mechanism by which we become resilient, smart, and adaptable people. Beyond play’s role in our personal fulfillment, its benefits have profound implications for child development and the way we parent, education and social policy, business innovation, productivity, and even the future of our society. From new research suggesting the direct role of three-dimensional-object play in shaping our brains to animal studies showing the startling effects of the lack of play, Brown provides a sweeping look at the latest breakthroughs in our understanding of the importance of this behavior. A fascinating blend of cutting-edge neuroscience, biology, psychology, social science, and inspiring human stories of the transformative power of play, this book proves why play just might be the most important work we can ever do.


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Read Stuart Brown's posts on the Penguin Blog. From a leading expert, a groundbreaking book on the science of play, and its essential role in fueling our intelligence and happiness throughout our lives. We’ve all seen the happiness in the face of a child while playing in the school yard. Or the blissful abandon of a golden retriever racing with glee across a lawn. This is th Read Stuart Brown's posts on the Penguin Blog. From a leading expert, a groundbreaking book on the science of play, and its essential role in fueling our intelligence and happiness throughout our lives. We’ve all seen the happiness in the face of a child while playing in the school yard. Or the blissful abandon of a golden retriever racing with glee across a lawn. This is the joy of play. By definition, play is purposeless and all-consuming. And, most important, it’s fun. As we become adults, taking time to play feels like a guilty pleasure—a distraction from “real” work and life. But as Dr. Stuart Brown illustrates, play is anything but trivial. It is a biological drive as integral to our health as sleep or nutrition. In fact, our ability to play throughout life is the single most important factor in determining our success and happiness. Dr. Brown has spent his career studying animal behavior and conducting more than six thousand “play histories” of humans from all walks of life—from serial murderers to Nobel Prize winners. Backed by the latest research, Play explains why play is essential to our social skills, adaptability, intelligence, creativity, ability to problem solve, and more. Play is hardwired into our brains—it is the mechanism by which we become resilient, smart, and adaptable people. Beyond play’s role in our personal fulfillment, its benefits have profound implications for child development and the way we parent, education and social policy, business innovation, productivity, and even the future of our society. From new research suggesting the direct role of three-dimensional-object play in shaping our brains to animal studies showing the startling effects of the lack of play, Brown provides a sweeping look at the latest breakthroughs in our understanding of the importance of this behavior. A fascinating blend of cutting-edge neuroscience, biology, psychology, social science, and inspiring human stories of the transformative power of play, this book proves why play just might be the most important work we can ever do.

30 review for Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

  1. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    The brief synopsis: (1) Everything good about being human comes from play. (2) If you stop playing you will hate your life, get divorced and probably become a serial killer. O rly? The book is an exhaustive list of claims. They are unsubstantiated. No footnotes, no journal citations. Just a whole bunch of I've been studying play for decades and I am certain it will make you enjoy your job, fornicate with your spouse more often and be more creative. The language is laced with enough technicality to gi The brief synopsis: (1) Everything good about being human comes from play. (2) If you stop playing you will hate your life, get divorced and probably become a serial killer. O rly? The book is an exhaustive list of claims. They are unsubstantiated. No footnotes, no journal citations. Just a whole bunch of I've been studying play for decades and I am certain it will make you enjoy your job, fornicate with your spouse more often and be more creative. The language is laced with enough technicality to give the appearance of rigorous scientific work, but that only manages to make it less enjoyable to read without providing any support for his claims. Frankly, I want to agree with him on most things (there's something intuitive about being more playful as a mechanism to bring joy and exploration back into ones life), but if you're going to bill play as the primary quality driving human evolution, a bit of data would be lovely. One stray mention of an EEG scan, one of an fMRI study. Other than that, nothing. No reams of data on the statistical correlations of playfulness and happiness. No references to neuroscience labs measuring dopamine release during play activities. I wanted to see something to make me believe this is more than a pile of observations from a guy who really likes watching doggies and babies have fun.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    There were days at the middle school where I teach when I just wanted to fold paper with my students to see them interact with me and each other. These are inner-city toughies who really don't respond to much that passes for standard curriculum. They are angry and antsy and difficult and disrespectful. To watch them transform scraps of paper into sublime objects of beauty. To watch them as they reached outside their usual way of thinking to do something very different. Most days, I just wanted to There were days at the middle school where I teach when I just wanted to fold paper with my students to see them interact with me and each other. These are inner-city toughies who really don't respond to much that passes for standard curriculum. They are angry and antsy and difficult and disrespectful. To watch them transform scraps of paper into sublime objects of beauty. To watch them as they reached outside their usual way of thinking to do something very different. Most days, I just wanted to play. But how to justify this? I am expected to help kids read and write and do well on standardized tests. The kids very often hate me for my troubles. I don't blame them. The dank workbooks of generations gone by are of no relevance to them. Or me. At the end of the school year, I taught my kids origami as a break from the norm. They relaxed and loved it and were delighted with themselves that they could turn scrap paper into beautiful things. They helped each other by explaining--by taking the story--the instructions--and putting it in their own words to help a peer. And they were playing. This experience brought me to Brown's book. He talks about the importance of play in problem solving, social interaction, and, to use a broad brush, surviving this world in a healthy way. Letting go and relaxing through play free the mind to reach beyond itself and thus find answers. Serendipity. Brown's book is full of examples of serendipity in action in the science lab, the corporate conference room, the home sweet home. Play unlocks the mind, lets it sample possibilities, lets it seek and find a new level of possibilities. Play makes dreams come true. Brown makes the statement that we start dying when we stop playing. He's right. His book makes the truth of the statement abundantly clear.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This book was recommended to me by a friend who just had a baby boy last year. He told me that it was great for new parents because it teaches how play is so important to young children. However, the book was also engaging to him because it talks about how play is so important for adults as well. He was right on the money. This book won't win any awards for writing style, but the ideas present you with a fresh look at the everyday world. The author boils it down pretty simply: make sure to do the This book was recommended to me by a friend who just had a baby boy last year. He told me that it was great for new parents because it teaches how play is so important to young children. However, the book was also engaging to him because it talks about how play is so important for adults as well. He was right on the money. This book won't win any awards for writing style, but the ideas present you with a fresh look at the everyday world. The author boils it down pretty simply: make sure to do the things you truly love as often as you can. This may seem obvious, but often as we get older we get so tied up with the little things and with our work that we tend to forget to play. Very importantly, he does not write in a completely anecdotal way. He backs up a number of his claims with recent studies that show how play and joy affect our physical and mental states. In other words, this guy isn't just being uber-nostalgic. His definition of play is very subjective, but he does outline a few important points for everyone to follow. Make sure you do something that made you happy when you were younger. Make sure it takes you "outside of time." In other words, get lost in it. Also, try to move around. Play can be as simple as reading a book, but true play involves really getting your mind and body to flow together. There were parts of the book that I found a little sappy, but overall I think this book is a welcome reminder to do the simple things that make you happy. And a thanks to Andy for recommending this.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lars Guthrie

    'Play' starts out strong, connecting animal play to that of humans and our inherited need for play. '...[T:]here is a strong positive link,' he tells us, 'between brain size and playfulness for mammals in general.' Brown quotes Robert Fagen, preeminent animal behaviorist, to get at the cause for that need: 'Play allows "pretend" rehearsal for the challenges and ambiguities of life, a rehearsal when life and death are not at stake.' And Brown's book is full of such insightful quotes, as well as h 'Play' starts out strong, connecting animal play to that of humans and our inherited need for play. '...[T:]here is a strong positive link,' he tells us, 'between brain size and playfulness for mammals in general.' Brown quotes Robert Fagen, preeminent animal behaviorist, to get at the cause for that need: 'Play allows "pretend" rehearsal for the challenges and ambiguities of life, a rehearsal when life and death are not at stake.' And Brown's book is full of such insightful quotes, as well as his own pithy remarks. I've added his 'When we stop playing, we start dying' to my favorite quotes on Goodreads. But it turns into an easy read that starts getting a little too easy. Already pretty 'lite' with just a bit over 200 pages, it still seems bloated, with lots of fluffy filler, and smacks a little of a self-help manual. 'Play' did make me feel good about getting play into my work life, and work into my play life a la James Michener: 'The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which.'

  5. 5 out of 5

    Orsolya

    Confucius says: All work and no play results in cranky jerks. Okay, this isn’t true but we can all attest to the importance of ‘fun’. Playtime (and this includes hobbies, arts, etc) is hardwired in our brains and helps us improve life and build strong relationships. No one knows this better than Stuart Brown, MD who explores this field in, “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul”. The first pages of “Play” suitably have some glue to attract the reader but s Confucius says: All work and no play results in cranky jerks. Okay, this isn’t true but we can all attest to the importance of ‘fun’. Playtime (and this includes hobbies, arts, etc) is hardwired in our brains and helps us improve life and build strong relationships. No one knows this better than Stuart Brown, MD who explores this field in, “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul”. The first pages of “Play” suitably have some glue to attract the reader but sadly, this dissipates quickly. “Play” begins by exploring the properties of play as it is not something which can simply be defined by a Webster’s definition. Brown goes on to explain how crucial play is for survival, growth, and relationships. However, the lesson is then over. Brown’s execution is weak and there is an absence of a true thesis; as he is virtually only telling the reader that play is important (no more and no less). Like a poorly-written research paper, Brown has no thorough arguments, no notations, and dummies down the information. As a fan of neuroscience and pop-psych books, I generally am blown away by information on the pages of such books but “Play” doesn’t teach much. Yes, there are some interesting facts but these are spread out and are instead blanketed with filler and repetitious data. Extending on this, “Play” reads like an abstract article with a bare bone skeleton begging for some meat. Just as Brown grazes an interesting topic, he leaves it or mentions an experiment but without being detailed or explaining its impact on the topic or on his hypothesis. Again, the reader doesn’t gain much on the subject other than what he/she does within the first few pages. “Play” also lacks a cohesive consistency. Brown’s writing is scattered and contains several instances of opinionated, non-scientific speculations. This wouldn’t necessarily be an issue if he argued his viewpoints or even thoroughly explained them; but Brown does not. “Play” is simply very empty in many ways. Brown’s work does not improve as the pages turn, with the text focusing on personal case studies and “I think” and I feel” phrases pepper the pages. “Play” has no scientific foundation and continues to read like the transcript of a motivational speech targeting parents versus anything of substance. It is a stretch to even call “Play” a pop-psych book. The only highlight of “Play” is the chapter devoted to how playtime affects love, romance, and relationships. Sadly, this borderline ‘strong’ chapter is abrupt and cuts off too quickly. Brown concludes his work with a how-to tip guide exploring how play can be incorporated back into everyday life. This is basically a summary of what was already noted throughout “Play and therefore the ending is not memorable. Too add to the already-mentioned lack of scientific merit, Brown fails to include any notes, sources, or bibliography. Meanwhile, the text is sprinkled with black and white photos which are very generic and do not supplement the text (and are therefore, meaningless). “Play” is a prime example of a passionate author failing to write an argumentative and provoking piece. “Play” is not compelling and doesn’t leave the reader with any insight gained. It is a fast read so at least it is over quickly. Unfortunately, I do not recommend “Play” as it is a let-down.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tim Kadlec

    If I could give half star reviews , this would've gotten 3 1/2 stars instead of four. I enjoyed the concepts being discussed, and agree with the overall premise - that play is an essential and underappreciated part of life. It just would've been nice to have more specifics about the studies he mentions, or at the very least, some footnotes so I could have a look at them in more detail. If I could give half star reviews , this would've gotten 3 1/2 stars instead of four. I enjoyed the concepts being discussed, and agree with the overall premise - that play is an essential and underappreciated part of life. It just would've been nice to have more specifics about the studies he mentions, or at the very least, some footnotes so I could have a look at them in more detail.

  7. 5 out of 5

    George Martzen

    It's ok. Go ahead and play in the mud. This is a very readable book that gleans largely from medical research but also uses lots of stories and anecdotes. I especially like his JPL account that highlights the link between childhood manual play and adult capacity for problem-solving. I would have liked to see some sort of citations or at least a bibliography at the end. It's ok. Go ahead and play in the mud. This is a very readable book that gleans largely from medical research but also uses lots of stories and anecdotes. I especially like his JPL account that highlights the link between childhood manual play and adult capacity for problem-solving. I would have liked to see some sort of citations or at least a bibliography at the end.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    I read this for work whilst in the midst of writing a client presentation about toys and... that’s right... play. Didn’t get much out of it. So if I didn’t under those circumstances, who will? Maybe I just already knew the information he was sharing given my line of work in the toy industry, and people outside the profession will find more to learn here.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dan Connors

    I was not aware of a National Institute of Play, but it sounds like a good idea. This book came out in 2008 and didn't hit any best-seller lists, but the author is an expert in the power of play and he makes many good points. From an evolutionary standpoint, there doesn't seem to be any good reason for play to exist. It doesn't make you stronger, bring in food, or help with reproduction, so there seems to be little biological advantage for those species that engage in play while avoiding the surv I was not aware of a National Institute of Play, but it sounds like a good idea. This book came out in 2008 and didn't hit any best-seller lists, but the author is an expert in the power of play and he makes many good points. From an evolutionary standpoint, there doesn't seem to be any good reason for play to exist. It doesn't make you stronger, bring in food, or help with reproduction, so there seems to be little biological advantage for those species that engage in play while avoiding the survival activities that most of nature is about. But exist it does, not only in humans but in many animals up and down the evolutionary chain. In the author's research, he has determined that play is a crucial exercise in helping our brains grow, discover, and try out new things. Without it no progress is ever made. "In playing, we create imaginative new cognitive combinations. And in creating those novel combinations, we find out what works." Genuine play is voluntary, purposeless, free of time constraints, inherently pleasing, and takes us into a feeling of flow with life. It strengthens our relationships with those who are playing with us. It gives us meaning beyond just survival. A lot of the book seems pretty self-evident, but it's nice to see what an MD and play expert has to say on the topic. The world could certainly use more spirit of play- there would be less animosity and alienation, and we would all be more willing to open ourselves up to change and new possibilities. People who think they're playing are often just competing, and the fun has been drained out of everything they do. The book encourages us to look back into our childhood and find things that give us bliss, with the understanding that it's not realistic to be playing all the time. The author uses some real-life examples from people he has worked with, as well as some psychological studies to back up his points. He concludes the book with this. "Play is how we are made, how we develop and adjust to change. In he end the most significant aspect of play is that it allows us to express our joy and connect most deeply with the best in ourselves, and in others. Play transcends both love and work, infuses them with liveliness and still's time's arrow. Play is the purest expression of love." The book is short at 218 pages, but I still recommend it with 4 out of 5 stars for its unique take on an important topic.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jacquelyn Fusco

    A joyous read. I think we all need this book. I have always been a playful person, but I am renewing my intentions to make my life more playful. Last year, I was very depressed. I became very anxious about how to use my time. I was unemployed, with lots of time, which was what I always dreamed I wanted when I was in school. After an inciting event sparked the depression and it stuck around, I began to despair that life was just a choice between working for a weekend that was not all that great o A joyous read. I think we all need this book. I have always been a playful person, but I am renewing my intentions to make my life more playful. Last year, I was very depressed. I became very anxious about how to use my time. I was unemployed, with lots of time, which was what I always dreamed I wanted when I was in school. After an inciting event sparked the depression and it stuck around, I began to despair that life was just a choice between working for a weekend that was not all that great or being bored; either way unhappy. This is the thought process of a depressed person, unable to feel the joy of things they once loved. It is still very comforting to be to be re-assured again and again, in as scientific a way as possible, that life can and should be joyful. When you're healthy and have a decent balance between work and play. I still think 40 hour work-weeks are too long, especially since most work-places make work very difficult to feel playful. That's why the next book I'm reading is: "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time".

  11. 5 out of 5

    C.J. Darlington

    Who would've thought play would be so important in our lives? This book brings to light something I think many of us know on a subconscious level but need to remind ourselves over and over again. After reading this book I believe play is a missing puzzle piece not only in my own life but probably in many of the lives of people I know. Scientific yet still readable, Brown explains why he believes play is the cornerstone to happiness. A few sections were a little dull, but for the most part PLAY i Who would've thought play would be so important in our lives? This book brings to light something I think many of us know on a subconscious level but need to remind ourselves over and over again. After reading this book I believe play is a missing puzzle piece not only in my own life but probably in many of the lives of people I know. Scientific yet still readable, Brown explains why he believes play is the cornerstone to happiness. A few sections were a little dull, but for the most part PLAY is accessible and a much-needed reminder. I'd recommend to anyone for whom life feels dull or monotonous.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Waldock

    I can't begin to say how useful I found this book in thinking about how to facilitate growth and development at the personal and organisational levels. It's an exploration of what play is, what it does, and how you can use it to make your life better. I've been using play at work for some time, particularly for solving large complex problems, but this really opened my eyes to some of the psychology behind it. Recommended for everyone. I can't begin to say how useful I found this book in thinking about how to facilitate growth and development at the personal and organisational levels. It's an exploration of what play is, what it does, and how you can use it to make your life better. I've been using play at work for some time, particularly for solving large complex problems, but this really opened my eyes to some of the psychology behind it. Recommended for everyone.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Herve Tunga

    Good read. I liked that the author looks at games from a broad perspective. It can be useful to break ice, encourage people to engage through an invitation to play.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    Play is a real treasure of a popular science book. Based on Brown's work as a clinician and deep familiarity with the literature, it moves through the deep important of play to all animals, and especially human beings. Far from being frivolous, play and a playful attitude is associated with learning, with success, and with a longer and healthier life. Imaginative play, exuberant play, and play free from consequence or adult supervision, is what makes us human, and what makes life worth living. Br Play is a real treasure of a popular science book. Based on Brown's work as a clinician and deep familiarity with the literature, it moves through the deep important of play to all animals, and especially human beings. Far from being frivolous, play and a playful attitude is associated with learning, with success, and with a longer and healthier life. Imaginative play, exuberant play, and play free from consequence or adult supervision, is what makes us human, and what makes life worth living. Brown strays into pat self-help in places, and Boomer kid-shaming in others, but this book is everything I wanted to be Exuberance to be.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I read this book as part of research into the application of play therapy in treatment of depression in adults. I discovered that creative play is my play personality, so I'm reinvesting in coloring as play. Great book. It has applications for parenting, managing our own depression, and in the treatment of anxiety and depression in others. Highly recommend. I read this book as part of research into the application of play therapy in treatment of depression in adults. I discovered that creative play is my play personality, so I'm reinvesting in coloring as play. Great book. It has applications for parenting, managing our own depression, and in the treatment of anxiety and depression in others. Highly recommend.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    It was really fascinating to read what happens in our brains when we play. I found it especially relevant in how play is essential to creativity, but as any great nonfiction book, it was full of surprising and wonderful connections and stories across many disciplines: parenting, social connection, innovation, business, health. Loved it and will refer to it again.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Varina Denman

    I love my work (writing), but I've become a workaholic. This book has reminded me of the value of playing. I think this will be a life-changer for me. I hope so! I love my work (writing), but I've become a workaholic. This book has reminded me of the value of playing. I think this will be a life-changer for me. I hope so!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hisgirl85

    4 stars for this interesting audio book on Play and the research and examples of how it effects your life. I loved the narrator's voice and found the information helpful. 4 stars for this interesting audio book on Play and the research and examples of how it effects your life. I loved the narrator's voice and found the information helpful.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alexia

    I give this book 4 stars out of 5 because it was good but they used the word “Play” too much. Other than that I think that the book is really inspiring because it teaches you how to live a life with “Play”. The thing that most made sense to me is how Play can be good and bad in your life, its dependence on how you apply it. And for those of you how don’t understand what I talking about because you don’t know what play, you'll have to read the book This book doesn't relate to my hero's journey, cau I give this book 4 stars out of 5 because it was good but they used the word “Play” too much. Other than that I think that the book is really inspiring because it teaches you how to live a life with “Play”. The thing that most made sense to me is how Play can be good and bad in your life, its dependence on how you apply it. And for those of you how don’t understand what I talking about because you don’t know what play, you'll have to read the book This book doesn't relate to my hero's journey, cause it just should me how to apply the system play in life. It will enter my heroes journey somehow, because when I'm applying it then it will be in my hero's journey. This book changed me as a reader because I don’t like lots of books, and when I do like them, they change my perspective of reading. Because I liked this book, now I like to read a little more. I would recommend this book to people how to have lots of questions about life and how to solve your problems in life because it did help me see some problems that I didn’t realize and it did show me the way to happiness. “The world needs to play because it enables each person to live a good life”. Page 201

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Dr. Brown takes playing very seriously: "Play is a profound biological process." "The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person. "Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively." "Play is like fertilizer for brain growth." "Play is the purest expression of love." With statements like that, Dr. Brown seems to imbue play with some sort of supernatural power that makes you smarter, happier, pra Dr. Brown takes playing very seriously: "Play is a profound biological process." "The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person. "Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively." "Play is like fertilizer for brain growth." "Play is the purest expression of love." With statements like that, Dr. Brown seems to imbue play with some sort of supernatural power that makes you smarter, happier, practically impervious to harm or error, and just all-around better. Ok, I'm exaggerating just a bit, but how can you not decide you need more play in your life after assertions like that? Dr. Brown lays out seven properties of play and a six-step process people go through when they play, as well as seven guidelines on how to incorporate play into your life. He uses examples from the animal kingdom - otters, dogs, polar bears, even hippos and sea squirts - to show how pervasive play is, and how it can teach survival skills. He highlights playful individuals as diverse as Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and Baz Luhrmann to show what play can accomplish. He covers a lot of ground in this book. But rather than giving you a rundown of everything Dr. Brown mentions, I want to ruminate on just one of his pithy points about play and my own related experiences. He says: "The opposite of play is not work--the opposite of play is depression." Stay-at-home-motherhood is work. It's a never-ending cycle of doing things that need to be done again and again and again: making meals, washing dishes, doing laundry, sweeping, wiping, scrubbing, vacuuming, sorting, and driving from point A to point B and back again. Frankly, it can be plain and simple drudgery to be responsible for the care, safety and well-being of young'uns, drudgery that can suck the joy out of everyday if you allow it to. When Dr. Brown warns that "our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility", I wearily nod my agreement... To read the rest of this review, come visit Build Enough Bookshelves.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    What is not to like about a book that encourages me to do what I naturally enjoy doing? This was a light, enjoyable read, that gave good reminders of the importance of play, both for proper childhood development and for happiness throughout life. I found most interesting the research about brain development and play (and sleep, another thing which I love and have long believed is necessary to growth and healing). Brown shares research in both animals and people which shows that the role of such What is not to like about a book that encourages me to do what I naturally enjoy doing? This was a light, enjoyable read, that gave good reminders of the importance of play, both for proper childhood development and for happiness throughout life. I found most interesting the research about brain development and play (and sleep, another thing which I love and have long believed is necessary to growth and healing). Brown shares research in both animals and people which shows that the role of such play is not skill based (ie, learn to be a better hunter or fighter), but it is essential to learning adaptivity. Childhood play prepares us to respond to unexpected changes in our environment and teaches us social skills. During play, brains are being rewired. In a good way. (He also shares stories and photos of animals playing, which always make me smile.) Good reading for parents, especially those who might be surrounded by a culture that does not see the value of free time and free play in a child's life. Brown also discusses play culture in hiring practices and the corporate world, showing that time spent in free play as a child does impact one's problem solving skills and creativity in a way that programmed activities do not. Brown's book is not limited to childhood development. He also discusses the role of play in the lives of adults. He demonstrates that play, in its proper place, leads to a greater sense of well being and health. He suggests, for those who feel their lives lack play, that they recall their own "play history." He breaks different styles of play into eight categories, which have more to do with why you enjoy something than with what the activity is. For example, one person might love riding a bike because of the sheer physical joy of movement, while another enjoys competing for best times. So your "play history" is not just what you did for play, but what did you enjoy about that? As I said, what is not to like about a book that tells us to enjoy playing around?

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Stuart Brown, MD is the founder of the National Institute for Play. This book summarizes some of the research he's done over the years and it includes some interesting findings that can help make yourself and your teams more creative and effective. In short, making play a part of our daily life is the most important factor in being a fulfilled person. We all play as children, it's part of our make-up, but something happens as we age and many adults start to feel guilty for playing. What does rema Stuart Brown, MD is the founder of the National Institute for Play. This book summarizes some of the research he's done over the years and it includes some interesting findings that can help make yourself and your teams more creative and effective. In short, making play a part of our daily life is the most important factor in being a fulfilled person. We all play as children, it's part of our make-up, but something happens as we age and many adults start to feel guilty for playing. What does remain is often overly organized rigid and competitive, just like work. Play is creative and innovative and allows us to discover different ways to interact with the world around us. It teaches us the value of mastering skills and, hopefully, how to win and lose. It's everything that lifts us from the mundane. If you feel stifled or lack creativity, your play development may have been disrupted. Brown offers the idea of recreating your play history. Go back to the first joyful experience you can remember and follow the threads. What brought you joy as a child? How can you bring that back into your life? Next, expose yourself to play. Are you open to play now? How can you be more playful? Finally, be active, free yourself from fear and allow yourself to be a beginner. In the work place, play can be seen as frivolous and wasted energy. However, progressive leaders are beginning to understand the inherent link between play and imagination. Creating cutting-edge products or solving problems both benefit from greater imagination. Play also creates an atmosphere of teamwork and camaraderie which improves the work dynamic and increases employee satisfaction and retention. Overall, the book is an interesting read for leaders and coaches that want to bring more creativity and imagination into a team.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Caely

    I picked this book based on the recommendation in Brene Brown's Gifts of Imperfection, and I was pretty disappointed. The general principles are sound, and some of the anecdotes are inspiring - I especially liked an early story about a dog and polar bear playing together in the arctic. But overall, the book feels disorganized and half-baked. Stuart Brown's career and credentials are impressive, but it seems like his ghostwriter just piled a series of general interviews together into a book. Ther I picked this book based on the recommendation in Brene Brown's Gifts of Imperfection, and I was pretty disappointed. The general principles are sound, and some of the anecdotes are inspiring - I especially liked an early story about a dog and polar bear playing together in the arctic. But overall, the book feels disorganized and half-baked. Stuart Brown's career and credentials are impressive, but it seems like his ghostwriter just piled a series of general interviews together into a book. There's a lot of sloppy, lazy writing. Grandiose generalizations are ubiquitous, citations are virtually nonexistent, and ideas reappear randomly in different chapters with no reason. Most ludicrous were the top-of-the-head lists of random famous people marshaled to illustrate a vague theory. For example: "Bill Gates left Harvard because he loved computers... Oprah recognized her talents and grew with them. Ozzie Smith, the retired baseball star, as a kid threw balls over the roof and chased them down, imagining himself in the majors. These were emotion-laden choices, not cognitively laid-out ten-year plans." I was especially frustrated with the chapter "Does Play Have a Dark Side?" which read like a defensive dodge of the question posed. His conclusion is that problematic behaviors like addiction to computer games, aggression, and violence are, by definition, not play. He writes naively, "...when our interactions are based on a foundation of caring, these hurts are corrected and avoided in the future," but correction requires self-regulation skills that not everyone has. If play is partly about testing limits, what happens when appropriate limits are not present or not recognized?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sherrie

    Here's a problem I don't have very often these days...I read this book too fast. Lol. I read it on two short flights this week and while I thoroughly enjoyed devouring it this way, I am afraid I missed some things. That said, this was a good book. It's written well and I appreciate how the author skirts the line between defining the science with keeping this a light-hearted book for laymen. It's an easy read, but with structure! A lot of the things he talks about I already knew, some I was happy Here's a problem I don't have very often these days...I read this book too fast. Lol. I read it on two short flights this week and while I thoroughly enjoyed devouring it this way, I am afraid I missed some things. That said, this was a good book. It's written well and I appreciate how the author skirts the line between defining the science with keeping this a light-hearted book for laymen. It's an easy read, but with structure! A lot of the things he talks about I already knew, some I was happy to see were already incorporated into my own home and work, and others were new and interesting ways to look at our human relationships. My only complaint, and it's really a small one at this point, is that this book suffers from the bias that SO MANY books written by older intellectuals does. He loses his sense of balance when discussing video games, cell phones, and the internet. Like many in his age group (70s) he just cannot fathom that these can be healthy, interactive, social pursuits. I find this unfortunate, but expected.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Monika

    Great Great Great! This is a book that I plan to re-read many times in my life, as a refresher on how Play shapes life, and how it is the center of how we progress as we grow. It was so inspirational and made me see things in a new light. I kept picturing how I can adapt his advice to all aspects of my life, and how easy it really is....we just live in a society where we work work work, and burn ourselves out...we need to make time for ourselves, or life is going to pass us by completely. Stuart Great Great Great! This is a book that I plan to re-read many times in my life, as a refresher on how Play shapes life, and how it is the center of how we progress as we grow. It was so inspirational and made me see things in a new light. I kept picturing how I can adapt his advice to all aspects of my life, and how easy it really is....we just live in a society where we work work work, and burn ourselves out...we need to make time for ourselves, or life is going to pass us by completely. Stuart Brown is very educated on the topic, and I loved how instead of just facts he incorporated stories about his studies, and how he has come to his conclusions. It kept me interested throughout. If the book was just facts, and scientific information, I would have gotten bored and put the book down, but it was written perfectly! I'd reccomend this book to everyone. In fact, I'm passing it down to a friend!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Scott

    I bought this book two years ago having read great reviews of it, read a couple chapters and let it sit. Recently came across extenive quotes from it an essay and began a serious read. It is delightful, informative, and a good self-study. It explains the importance of play behavior to evolution (of all animals), the place of play in human maturing, and is positive about a lot of behaviors commonly thought to be worthless or worse. Play is not the opposite of work, it is the opposite of depression! I bought this book two years ago having read great reviews of it, read a couple chapters and let it sit. Recently came across extenive quotes from it an essay and began a serious read. It is delightful, informative, and a good self-study. It explains the importance of play behavior to evolution (of all animals), the place of play in human maturing, and is positive about a lot of behaviors commonly thought to be worthless or worse. Play is not the opposite of work, it is the opposite of depression! You need play to be creative, happy and healthy, physically as well as mentally. It is written in common English, not phychological jargon, so is very "user-freindly." The last section gives some pretty clear steps you can take to avoid aksing "Is that all there is?"

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Sheil

    It wasn't exactly what I was looking for. It it a good example of the psychology and anthropology of play but it only scratches the surface of the development of social interaction, morality and ethics, which is my preferred area of study. The best moment in the book is actually a quote from James Michener. "The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his It wasn't exactly what I was looking for. It it a good example of the psychology and anthropology of play but it only scratches the surface of the development of social interaction, morality and ethics, which is my preferred area of study. The best moment in the book is actually a quote from James Michener. "The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matt Lydon

    Stuart Brown's book was a really interesting and very readable introduction to the "state of play" and its importance in our lives. I did wish it was longer and went a bit more in depth, but Brown did mention several colleagues who have written other books to seek out. But hey, for 25 cents at a goodwill? I'll take it! Stuart Brown's book was a really interesting and very readable introduction to the "state of play" and its importance in our lives. I did wish it was longer and went a bit more in depth, but Brown did mention several colleagues who have written other books to seek out. But hey, for 25 cents at a goodwill? I'll take it!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tara Brabazon

    A surprising and fascinating book. While there is a bit too much earnest attention to neuroscience and building connectivity in the brain (yawn), the role of play for children and adults is well presented. Examples are shown alongside genres of play. This is a convincing book that - while probably aimed at a trade audience - has some academic resonance.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Scott Wozniak

    It's a good idea, even and important one. But the book is written like a series of academic articles. That's not surprising since the author is 76 yr old academic. But it does mean there are extra details and overly complex explanations that muddy the message. Bottom line: play is core to being healthy, happy, and successful. It's a good idea, even and important one. But the book is written like a series of academic articles. That's not surprising since the author is 76 yr old academic. But it does mean there are extra details and overly complex explanations that muddy the message. Bottom line: play is core to being healthy, happy, and successful.

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