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

Blooming Sunshine + Spring Activity Nature Guide by P.L.A.Y.

Hey Capkins and fellow P.L.A.Y.ers take a look at this Spring Thing – blooming sunshine on a stick!

Happy Daffodil Days to you and yours!

❤ ❤ ❤

And a special thanks, filled with hugs and smiles, going out to the sweet messenger of this bundle of blooming sunshine (aka my Birch Bark Buddy!). ~ Karen ;0)

❤ ❤ ❤


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

A Simple Gift: Babbling Brook


Passing forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage everyone on their

naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. 🙂


Some of the simplest P.L.A.Y. gifts come in the form of time spent in nature.

A favorite spot when our kiddos had just reached double digits was a small pooling area that was a part of a babbling brook in our intentional farming community.

In late spring and throughout the summer we would visit this special spot to wade in and build dams and splash about.

There were plenty of opportunities to simply P.L.A.Y.

Building a dam meant figuring out how to put the rock puzzle pieces together, determining the integrity of the structure, watching the water level rise, and making adjustments as parts let go. It required weight lifting and knowing your own strength or considering the use of leverage.

A simple walking stick was used to discover the depth of the water before wading in to darker areas or to find the strength of the water flow. It could help leverage rocks for the dam or if broken be used in the making of the dam.

And when we’d return on another day these P.L.A.Y. moments would repeat themselves and be expanded upon again and again. 🙂

Years later this “smiling pool” at the brook now has a wonderful footbridge to cross over welcoming everyone to begin an adventure in the surrounding field, forest, ridge and river and to take some time out to simply P.L.A.Y.

Time to find your nook in nature, at the brook or beyond!

Sending Smiles,

Karen ;0)

Bonus Related Simple Gifts:

The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated): A P.L.A.Y. Nature Activity Story Book by Karen L. Willard and others found HERE.

My love of children’s literature and being out in nature all came creatively together when I chanced upon the 100+ year old Thornton Burgess books with so many of his stories written in New England nature settings. The animal characters have their adventures throughout the Green Forest in plenty of familiar places like: Peter Rabbit with his home in the Old Briar-patch, Jenny Wren building a nest in the Old Orchard, and Old Mr. Toad visiting the Smiling Pool created by the nearby Laughing Brook. These nature scenes are found throughout the area I live in too and I visit these magical peaceful places daily to immerse in a “sense of wonder” and to make creative connections.

If you’d like to visit spaces like these in nature I’ve got great news, simply follow these two steps:

  1. Step out your door and get to know your surrounding nature spots be it in your neighborhood, local community, bordering towns, or beyond. There are so many hidden wonders to explore and adventures to be had throughout the seasons by setting aside time to connect with nature and local communities.
  2. I have started re-writing many books in the Thornton Burgess nature series. I have updated the stories for the 21st century family by keeping the same old nature settings and story line and giving the characters an opportunity to model compassionate communication and loving kindness.  I have also provided bonus materials to interact with the book such as nature photos taken here in New England, spaces for the reader to illustrate each chapter as they creatively see it, and curious question prompts for conversations with friends and family, and added resource suggestions to continue the adventure. Try a copy or gift it to a kiddo in your life or neighborhood, donate a copy to your local library or school, all simply by clicking on this link HERE. Thanks!