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

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  1,547 Ratings  ·  205 Reviews
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 purpose ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published March 5th 2009 by Avery Publishing Group (first published 2009)
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Jul 27, 2012 Pat rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 19, 2010 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Dec 17, 2011 Orsolya rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-brain, library-2
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
Jul 29, 2009 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
George Martzen
Jun 21, 2013 George Martzen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Tim Kadlec
Nov 01, 2009 Tim Kadlec rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 26, 2013 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mar 09, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 23, 2013 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: coaching
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
Apr 22, 2014 Caely rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.

Feb 23, 2009 Monika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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.

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!
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
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.
Matt Lydon
Oct 25, 2013 Matt Lydon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Dec 27, 2015 Shirley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book! Brown lays out his scientific findings in such clear engaging terms, one can hardly take exception. Fair warning... serious hard work precedes reaching play nirvana. Even so I say, let's do it!
READ THIS BOOK!!! There are some minor weaknesses in its craft, but the overall impact is stupendous. This stuff might shake up the world, and I hope it does. I'd place Play among my top five most highly-recommended books. It's that important.
This is a great quick read that puts something as abstract and diverse as play into concrete terms.
Gloria Denoon
Sep 14, 2013 Gloria Denoon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book to read because we have a creative son who loves to play and recently has seemed to develop some aversion towards work or the concept of work, and because I wanted to learn how exactly play enhances learning in educational settings. I’m pleased to learn there should be a continuous dynamic interplay between work and play, and how this interplay may guide us to discover our passion, plan out our paths, fulfill our potentials and better integrate ourselves into the society.

The m
Mubarak Al-Hasan
وجهة نظر جديرة بالقراءة، عن أهمية اللعب في حياتنا بشكل عام
ورغم أن الكاتب لم يذكر تعريف محدد وواضح للعب وترك ذلك تبعا للشخص وخبراته الشخصية وتصوراته، إلا أنه وضع بعض المعايير العامة التي لاحظها

أعيب على الكاتب أستغراقه في القصص الشخصية له أو لأصحابه أو لقصة سمعها عن أصحابه
وهذا ما يفسر الملل الذي أحسست به في منتصف قرائتي للكتاب
برغم أن بداية الكتاب كانت قوية ومباشرة في المعنى

أعيب عليه أيضا عدم ذكر الكاتب لأي مصدر في الهامش أو كملحق في آخر الكتاب، عن البحوث والدراسات أو المقالات التي ذكرها في كتابه ل
Cherity Cook
Feb 18, 2017 Cherity Cook rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was impressed with this book and the argument it posits; while I understand that some dislike it for its tendency to use anecdotes and generalities over specific data, I would argue that this was done intentionally to appeal to a more general audience. As a whole, I found that this book offers solid advice on how to fully engage with life and appreciate that there is a purpose behind play.

I would definitely recommend this book to others.
Greg Talbot
Brown has a splendid TED talk on play --

And I don't think he's wrong, finding room to express, is important. Evolutionary it makes sense, to wire out brain to be flexible.

Anyway, there's just not a lot for me to write about the book. I found it bland, uninspiring unfortunately. Too little speicifications. Ugh, that's all i want to write.
Feb 02, 2017 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
interesting. I had first heard of this book from Gretchen Rubin and the theory of remembering what you enjoyed doing as a kid. I always remember the reading/writing stories part. But, I think part of my job includes the "director" play as I get to make projects come together.
Jan 01, 2017 Jmp rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
You already know this. Play is good so play often. Not playing is bad.
Sep 03, 2009 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far, I like the idea of the importance of play for everyone, kids and adults alike. "Stepping out of a normal routine, finding novelty, being open to serendipity, enjoying the unexpected, embracing a little risk, and finding pleasure in the heightened vividness of life. . . are all qualities of a state of play." This book is easy to read and understand, and though I haven't yet finished it, I'm sure I'll recommend it without much reservation.

An important book for all of us. I used to think
May 07, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
from the library

first anecdote is a story of a polar bear and a husky playing every day for a week.

Copy pages 17-19

P.25: "When anyone smiles at another person, they are reaching out, engaging in a play invitation as clear as a dog's play bow."

Properties of play:
- apparently purposeless - done for its own sake; doesn't seem to have any survival value.
- voluntary
- inherent attraction - fun
- freedom from {awareness of} time
- diminished consciousness of self - stop being self-conscious; don't
Ann Yeong
Dec 15, 2016 Ann Yeong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up because of an earlier book I read that had a chapter on how important play is for whole-hearted living (Brené Brown's "Gifts of Imperfection"), but also because a spiritual director I had seen recently kept reminding me that play is a necessary part of the spiritual journey and I realised that until recently, I had gotten out of touch with play and that I need to rediscover what play is for me.

Brown raised some interesting points about play which gave me food for thought, b
Mar 13, 2016 Shawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is paean for play. Brown says of himself that he is unabashed play advocate and he points to the various ways that play is important for development, physical and mental health, and even the existence of all civilization. I think of myself of as a kind of play advocate as well; I think most people—adult and children alike—need more (or better) play in their lives. Yet I think Brown’s enthusiasm about the importance of play probably outstrips the evidence. In some ways, he is overly bro ...more
Jan 27, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book to be a good overview of the topic of play, as it seems to be one of the few books written on the subject. However I found to be not as in depth as I'd hoped for, and I was annoyed by the lack of references or a bibliography at the end. The author breezes through assorted ideas and subtopics of play without diving in as much as I would've liked.
For instance the section on "What is your Play Personality?" was of great interest to me but I found it lacking substance. For the rec
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
More about Stuart Brown...

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“The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself.” 3 likes
“and engage fully with the world. I don’t think it is too much to say that play can save your life. It certainly has salvaged mine. Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively.” 2 likes
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