BOOK LOOK – Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown MD

 ~ ~ ~ BOOK LOOK ~ ~ ~ 

PLAY: How It Shapes the Brain,

Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

by Stuart Brown

~ Review ~

Dr. Stuart Brown’s book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul backs up with data and research everything I’ve come to know and have experienced in my 50+ years of being an elementary educator, homeschooling mom, and all around joyfully playful creative human being at every age and stage of my life.

Play is . . .

  • Play is required, on par with eating + sleeping + breathing, for the health and well being of our families, communities, and the world at large.
  • Play is the gateway for all of us to access our creativity and provides the catalyst for gathering all that we need on our life learning journey.
  • Play is where innovation comes from and has been the platform from which so many unique and very much needed ideas are launched into the world. (example: see story of Velcro)
  • Play is always an opportunity to express your most authentic self whether playing alone or together with other folks.
  • Play is engaging with books, movies, the arts, sports, games, hobbies, work you love or getting a job done more joyfully, day-dreaming, music, etc. What would your life look like without these? Yikes!
  • Play is like oxygen. So be sure to <Breathe in> and <Breathe out> mindfully and regularly!
  • P.L.A.Y. + Pass it on!!! ❤

In our Western culture where play is often written off as extra or frivolous it is helpful to be reminded of just how necessary it is for our human survival and thriving. If you’d like to see more of the data to support these ideas please take a moment to read Dr. Brown’s book. It is a game changer. 🙂

~ Reflections ~

Play and Learning Go Hand-in-Hand at ALL Ages + Stages

A truer statement could not be spoken. This is at the heart of it ALL.

This is also the very premise on which  P.L.A.Y. Passionate Learning All Year is based.

As the adult you are now, or even better when you were a child,  can you think of any situation in which there isn’t an opportunity for growth and learning? Not a chance.

Every day we have the opportunity to learn and expand what we know, how we know it, getting it into our bones, digging deeper, and playing with ideas to fully engage with the human experience.

Laura Grace Weldon says on page 1 in Chapter 1 of her excellent resource guide titled Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything (chapter-by-chapter reviews HERE)

“And, of course, children play. Play is generative, transforming the ordinary into something unique. It also imparts advanced social skills and a creative approach to life.”

And if you combine that with the work of Dr. Stuart Brown you will realize that kiddos AND adults have been playing, learning, and working side-by-side with each other in their families and communities since the beginning of time. Folks of all ages engaging together, indoors and out, naturally modeling for each other the skills they need to survive and thrive.

Work and play go hand-in-hand, at every age and stage of our lives, and now more than ever with the mindful and beneficial use of technology we can create lives that match our natural rhythms and earn a livelihood that allows us to be inspired and engaged daily. We can pursue our passions, play along the way, and share our hard work with the world naturally learning throughout the journey.

In other words, for kiddos and adults, both Stuart Brown’s and Laura Weldon’s books give you permission to embrace your authentic selves, play daily which gives you the space and grace to let your natural talents shine through, and bring these gifts forward to be of service throughout your lifetime.

AND if you can weave connecting to and engaging with nature into all of this work and play it will benefit you, your loved ones, and the planet ten fold.  Your authentic Work + P.L.A.Y. + Nature is a recipe for a full-filling life sharing your true gifts.

Sounds like pure genius right? That is what Laura call’s using one’s gifts – true genius.

So, what are you waiting for?

Time to experience P.L.A.Y. in action by picking up your copy of Stuart Brown’s PLAY: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul and putting it into practice today.

And while you are at it take a peek at Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon (spoiler alert – it isn’t just for homeschoolers – all Life Learners are welcome!).

You and your family will be ever so glad you did.

Sending Smiles ~ Karen 🙂

Note: This was re-posted with edits and additions from my BOOK LOOK post– Free Range Learning -series Chapter 1 Review found HERE )

~ Recommended Books for P.L.A.Y. in Nature ~

Purchase these titles HERE

Spring #2 – Nature Alliteration Adventure

Purchase Here – P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books

❤ ❤ ❤

A March treasure quest for you & your curious Capkin

is to search in nature for . . .

“A Terrific Tangle attached To a Tree”

Bonus Damask-like Design

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My curious Capkin & I found this treasure to match the description.

❤ ❤ ❤

What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂

Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your Nature Adventure book!

A Simple Gift: Childhood Memory Lane

Passing forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage everyone on their naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. 🙂

Making Memories = Nature + Play + Imagination

All Ages – Any Time!

Your childhood memory lane can be a wonderfully creative place to revisit and P.L.A.Y.

Think of how you enjoyed spending your childhood.

What made those moments sweet for you?

Was it a fresh box of crayons and a new coloring book?

Building mini-forts with blankets and couch cushions?

Bulldozing in the sandbox?

Reaching for the moon on a swing?

Time to revisit some of your magical moments.

Mud pies or sand castles? It is all up to you! 🙂

By spending a little time re-visiting those P.L.A.Y.-filled moments you are actually making space for new ideas to bubble up to the surface and express themselves in your creative adventures.

Curious Capkins in a Castle by the Creek

And yes, I mean truly revisiting them, both indoors and outdoors.

On the next rain or snow day pull the cushions off the couch, take a few sheets or blankets out and set up a fort. Complete the scene with a tea set and this time you can fill it with REAL tea! Now soak up the sounds of rain on the roof or watch the snowflakes float by and let your imagination engage for awhile.

Trust me, this will fill your tank with the simple gift of being present in the moment which leads to more creativity down the road.

Or go visit your childhood memory lane and chase a few fireflies and say hi to the man on the moon or whomever you see up in the sky on a warm summer’s night. Spy a shooting star on a cold winter’s eve as you cuddle up to a campfire with cocoa and marshmallows on hand.

Simply make the time to P.L.A.Y. – you and your creativity will be glad you did. ❤ ❤ ❤

A portion of “my little creative corner” where every day magic meets inspiration with plenty of play through coloring, writing, doodling, combined with the magic of my daily adventures out in nature.

Sending Smiles,

Karen ;0) 🙂

Bonus = Be sure to bring along your favorite kiddo(s) to share in these magical experiences with you! ❤ ❤ ❤

BOOK LOOK – Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon – Chapter 13 The Arts

~~~ BOOK LOOK ~~~

Review & Reflections

Free Range Learning:

How Homeschooling Changes Everything

by Laura Grace Weldon


If you were to only have one homeschool, unschooling, life learning book on your shelf this would be my top pick. It is absolutely worth having this volume on your shelf to revisit again and again.

This book encompasses so many of my core beliefs on life learning and how to raise children (and yourself!) in a mindful and wholehearted way that I just had to write a series of reviews covering the chapters in this book and encouraging other folks to try out this lifestyle.

Revisit reviews of previous chapters by clicking on the Category – Homeschooling + Unschooling search tab on the right side of this page or linked HERE.

In Chapter 13 – The Arts Laura covers more of what some folks would view as the “core subjects” of homeschooling. From learning to play an instrument, finger painting to clay pot making, acting in a local theater performance or singing in a church choir, the opportunities for artistic expression are endless, available, and they are necessary for healthy growth, learning, and as a means to express yourself.

Be sure to try out the wide variety of options Laura offers with both activities and resources and see my reflections below on our own families lived experience and the resources we used on our journey.


 P.L.A.Y. and the ARTS

Our work as life learners is to engage with topics of interest, explore curiosities, express ourselves creatively, and quite simply build a life of purpose and meaning through our daily adventures. And although creativity is evident in every facet of our lives, never more so then when exploring the realm of the arts.

Connecting to the arts and your creativity begins as early as dipping your finger in your dinner plate and doodling in your mashed potatoes or applesauce. Expressing through that first rhythmic banging and clanging of a pot with a spoon. The endless circles danced again and again to music in the living room. Dressing up in costumes pieced together from various odds and ends: old scarves, strings of beads from an auntie, ties no longer used by dad, skirts that twirl found at a second hand store from recitals gone by, and endless hats to top it all off. Making marching music from a collection of hand-held instruments and parading around the house, costumed (or not).

These are the first of what could be many naturally creative P.L.A.Y. moments as long as we as parents take a step back, let the kiddos express themselves, and provide a safe place for them to explore their likes and dislikes without any judgment or “shoulding”. If your family of origin always insisted that drawings of roses be red with green stems, or you had teachers that expected the same, then it will take a bit of courage to step back and let your child simply BE. It is worth it though as they will flourish and truly thrive under these nurturing conditions.

To help remind me to give space while supporting each of my kiddos to be their authentic selves I created the phrase: U-be-U (read more here). And there is no more important place than in the arts arena to simply let each person, kiddos and adults alike, to create, imagine, inspire, and immerse in their own moments without judgment. That is a simple gift that keeps on giving with a beautiful ripple effect out into our communities and then circling back again.

From practicing recorders, to singing in a chorus up on a symphony stage, visiting numerous concerts at the local university, to crafting jewelry and immersing in the fine art of photography, and sketching while visiting local greenhouses, our kiddos and family have always made creative expression a priority in our P.L.A.Y..

I hope you will be encouraged to keep the arts and creative expression as a priority throughout your learning adventures as it is a fabulously fun way to engage with P.L.A.Y. daily.

Mom Note: One of my favorite photos of my kiddos when they were young was of them painting watercolors out on the picnic table trying to capture how they saw the old 80 year oak tree in our backyard. The look on their faces was of pure joy and contentment as it didn’t matter what the paintings looked like (or what subject they actually painted), it was the process that lit them up knowing it was all truly good enough (especially for mom’s prized refrigerator art!)

Time to P.L.A.Y.!

Chapter 14 in this series can be found HERE.

Visit your local library to compliment this reading with the authors and resources listed below.

~ Recommended Authors + Resources ~

Julia Cameron –

The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children

❤ ❤ ❤

Betty Edwards  –

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

❤ ❤ ❤

Andy Goldsworthy – [Landscape Artist]

A Collaboration With Nature

❤ ❤ ❤

Abigail Wheatley –

The Story of Painting

❤ ❤ ❤

Margaret Peot –

Inkblot: Drip, Splat, and Squish Your Way to Creativity

❤ ❤ ❤

Note: See Chapter 14 – Language Arts for more of the arts like Poetry/Shakespeare Theater/etc.

Purchase Here- P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books

and encourage the arts today!


P.L.A.Y. Rocks!

P.L.A.Y. Rocks – Pass it on!

Simply pick up a pebble to paint and P.L.A.Y.

 your worries away. Sweet!

Humble Bugs – Simple Painted Stones

Seeing spots? Lots and lots?

Stone Dragonfly Splendor

❤ ❤ ❤

Looking for more tips on how to paint fun and fanciful designs on rocks?

Try these family friendly finds:

Stone Painting for Kids: Designs to Spark Creativity

by F. Sehnaz Bac

Rock Art!: Painting and Crafting With the Humble Pebble

by Denise Scicluna

Be sure to select your stones and create a stash in the spring, summer, or fall  so that you have plenty of stones to craft gifts to give away throughout the winter!

P.L.A.Y. Rocks – Pass it on!


P.L.A.Y. Rocks!

P.L.A.Y. Rocks – Pass it on!

Take the time to ramble amongst the rocks and rest assured your P.L.A.Y. nature will arrive promptly. 

River Rock – Special Striped Token Treasure

❤ ❤ ❤

Two-Tone Subtle Stripe Stones

❤ ❤ ❤

Andy Goldsworthy’s many published books reflecting his life long practice of by creating landscape art come to mind when I see these photos of locally found rock treasures.

If you haven’t been introduced to Andy’s work take a moment to connect to this outdoor magic making by requesting his many book titles from the library. They are filled with inspiring photos of nature made art that just might get you or your favorite kiddos to head out in nature and create a bit of landscape art too.

*Also search for videos online of his work which are truly P.L.A.Y. in action!

P.L.A.Y. Rocks – Pass it on!

P.L.A.Y. Rocks!

P.L.A.Y. Rocks – Pass it on!

Simply select a stone and immerse in your naturally inspiring imagination.

Found a beautiful fabulous fish “rocking it” in a local public garden!

❤ ❤ ❤

P.L.A.Y. Rocks – Pass it on!

Looking for more tips on how to paint fun and fanciful designs on rocks?

Try these family friendly finds:

Scribble Stones Art Guide: Step-by-Step Painting Techniques and Tricks

by Diane Alber


The matching picture book Scribble Stones by Diane Alber tells the story of how one stone learns we all have a purpose and to encourage passing forward our simple gifts.

Be sure to select your stones and create a stash in the spring, summer, or fall  so that you have plenty of stones to craft gifts to give away throughout the winter!


P.L.A.Y. Rocks!

P.L.A.Y. Rocks – Pass it on!

Simply select a stone and discover your P.L.A.Y. nature. 

Bonus – Gift it to a friend = Simple & Sweet!

Special Spotted Stone in Grey Tones – Mandala Inspired

❤ ❤ ❤

Special Set of Stones – Nature Does It Best with Black & White Harmony Rocks

❤ ❤ ❤

Looking for more tips on how to paint relaxing mandala rock designs?

Try these favorite finds:

Mandala Stones: 50 Inspirational Designs to Paint

by Natasha Alexander

A Year of Stone Painting: 52 Mandala Designs to Inspire Your Spirit

by F. Sehnaz Bac

Meditative Mandala Stones: Create Beautiful Designs While Relaxing and Focusing

by Maria Mercedes Trujillo Arango

Be sure to select your stones and create a stash in the spring, summer, or fall  so that you have plenty of stones to craft gifts to give away throughout the winter!

P.L.A.Y. Rocks – Pass it on!


Nature Alliteration Adventures ARE All Around

Alliteration = playing with words and creating phrases beginning

with the same letter of the alphabet or the same sounds.

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A curious Capkin spies a happy heart on a silent stone.

❤ ❤ ❤

The Nature Alliteration Adventures are a series of posts shared every Monday – Wednesday – Friday that I have created inspired by my daily “sense of wonder” walks out in the fields and forests in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts.

The companion P.L.A.Y. Nature Adventure Guide Books are available here for purchase to bring along as you explore the great outdoors in every season. They are designed to encourage curiosity and provide a place to capture the connections you make while discovering nature’s many simple and treasured gifts.

I hope you and your friends and family will join in the fun and have many P.L.A.Y.-filled adventures together.

Time to take a stretch and step away from the screen, bring your curious Capkin, and realign with your naturally creative and P.L.A.Y.-full self.



Meadows or mountains, babbling brook or your own backyard, the magic in nature awaits your arrival!

Let the P.L.A.Y. begin!

Sending smiles,

Karen ;0) 🙂