Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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 broad about what gets included as play (and conversely what excluded).
The book is definitely pitched at a more general audience (for example, there is no bibliography to help one follow up on the various research studies he talks about). I would have liked and was expecting some more analysis of the science behind the claims he makes – but as a general trade book this just doesn’t get below the surface.
Nevertheless, there is a lot of value here. Brown has some wonderful anecdotes about the impact of play. He does provide a window into the role play has in development of children and our species. He discusses the ways that the lack of play affects us as adults and suggests some ways to rediscover our play. In this way, the book is a kind of self-help book. It is a good starting point for people thinking about the value and importance of play.
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