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Book Review: Play (by Stuart Brown, M.D.)

As many of you know, the contest for my Carnival of Play is the opportunity to win one of three copies of this book. On this final day of the Carnival, I have just finished reading it and am ready to post my review.


In his new book Play, Stuart Brown provides an overview of the importance of play in shaping our brains, opening our imaginations and invigorating our souls. The book has two main parts:

  • Part 1: Why Play? This first section gives general background information on what play is, why humans (and animals) play, and how we are built for play. This section is primarily theoretical and includes a lot of examples and illustrations of concepts.

  • Part 2: Living the Playful Life. This section is more practical and includes several chapters on the importance and role of play in different aspects of our lives, including childhood, work life, and relationships. It also talks about the dark side of play (things like addicitons, bullying, etc.) and concludes with suggestions on incorporating more play into your life.

What I Liked About This Book

The book is a great general overview of the significance of play in our lives. In particular, some of the parts I found interesting were:

  • Parenthood is Child's Play: There is one chapter that focuses entirely on play during childhood, from fetal movements all the way up to becoming an adult. This section includes research findings, stories (both positive and negative),  and examples of what play looks like at each stage of a child's life.

  • The Opposite of Play is Not Work: This great chapter talks about the fact that we can and should bring play into our work lives. Although not a parenting topic as such, I think this is useful for parents who might otherwise be drained at the end of a long and difficult work day. However, if they can find ways to make work more enjoyable, then they may have more energy and a more positive outlook when they do get home to their kids. This also talks about the tangible benefits of creativity and innovation in the workplace, which links back to my post on Creative Play as an Academic Pursuit.

  • Suggestions for Getting Play Back into Your Life: This is raised in the chapter on the play and work as well as in the final chapter (and sprinkled throughout). I know I can use some more play in my life, so I think I'll read through these suggestions a few times and see what I can incorporate.

What I Didn't Like About This Book

The book is well written and easy to read, so there isn't a lot to not like about it. However, there are a few things I think worth noting. First, since this is a parenting blog I want to note that this is not entirely a parenting book. It does include a chapter on play in children's lives and a lot of the information in other chapters is also relevant to the importance of play in child development, but it is much broader than just parenting. If you want a book devoted just to play as a parenting tool, this one will fall short. Second, the first half of the book talked too much about play in the animal kingdom for me. There were some interesting stories, but I was interested in learning primarily about play in humans and to me this took up too much space. Finally, I like references. I don't doubt that this is well researched, but compared with similar books that I have read, what was missing were the footnotes. Sometimes I want to read more about something that was raised or at least see where the information came from. But there weren't any footnotes to guide me to the source studies.


If you want an easy read, interesting stories, and great examples about the importance of play in all aspects of our lives, then this book is for you.

Buy Play on Amazon.com

Three lucky carnival participants will be receiving a copy of the book! I'll draw the names on Wednesday, April 22 and notify people via e-mail before announcing the winners on the site. Note: In addition to the 3 copies donated to the contest, I also received a free copy to review.
« PLAY! Definitive Resource on Play and Parenting | Main | Final Thoughts on Importance of Play - Carnival Posts (Part 7) »

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