057: What is the value of play?

Does play really matter? Do children get anything out of it? Or is it just messing around; time that could be better spent preparing our children for success in life?

Today we talk with Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, about the benefits of play for both children and – I was surprised to find – adults.

This is the first in a series of episodes on play – lots more to come on outdoor play (and how to raise kids who love being outdoors), risky play, and imaginative play.


Bjorklund, D.F., & Brown, R.D. (1998). Physical play and cognitive development: Integrating activity, cognition, and education. Child Development, 69, 604-606.

Brown, S. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York, NY: Penguin.

Christakis, D. A., F. J. Zimmerman, and M. Garrison. (2007). Effect of block play on language acquisition and attention in toddlers a pilot randomized controlled trial. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine,161 (10), 967-971.

Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper and Row.

Duckworth, A.L. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. New York, NY: Scribner.

Elkind, D. (2003). Thanks for the memory: The lasting value of true play. Young Children 58(3), 46-51.

Lancy, D.F. (2015). The anthropology of childhood: Cherubs, chattel, changelings (2nd Ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.


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  1. Megan on February 15, 2018 at 1:09 AM

    Another great episode! I guess I’m embarrassed to admit I might be one of *those* adults, but I’m still not completely clear on what ‘play’ is for grownups, aside from rough-housing or digging in the sand ourselves. Looking forward to clarifying my understanding of this in future episodes. Keep up the great work!
    (Feel totally free to delete this comment if it’s not the most appropriate place for this feedback!)

    • Jen Lumanlan on February 19, 2018 at 9:25 PM

      Megan, I think “play” for adults is whatever you find fun! That might be rough-housing and digging in the sand, but it might also be cooking or reading or playing video games or mountain biking. In an ideal world, your “play” and “work” will significantly intersect…LMK if you have any other questions!

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