Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown
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 play (such as rough and tumble play fighting) 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? For me, the joy of riding my bike was having the ability to explore my world, riding to parks and areas I'd not been before, even seeing a different style of house was exciting to me, growing up in a homogeneous Levitt development.
As I said, what is not to like about a book that tells us to enjoy playing around?