Why Play?


Three girls on a swing setPlay isn’t just for fun – according Dr. Stuart Brown, it’s a biological drive as integral to our health as sleep and proper nutrition. Throughout life, play continues to be an important factor in determining success and the ability to thrive. It is through play that we learn how to solve problems, interact with others and test our limits.

Another prominent researcher, Dr. Adele Diamond, says today's children are more likely to be entertained by technological devices, and/or to be signed up for lessons than to play for hours in the backyard with other children. "...most children today do not engage in the kind of intentional make-believe play that fosters self-regulation, an important characteristic for children to succeed in school."

Dr. Bryan Kolb is a researcher with the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, based at the University of Lethbridge. He is considered a worldwide expert on brain development. In this video, he explains a child’s intelligence - whether academic, emotional or social, is all forged through play:

Play develops intelligence. (running time 1:59)  

A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults - and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age. This Ted Talk video provides solid research emphasizing the importance of play for all of us.

And as renowned neuroscientist Dr. Sergio Pellis reminds us, not all kids are the same. For that reason, it's important to create diverse experiences, so children can select what they find most rewarding:

(running time 1:33)



Facilitating Children's Play: Young children need opportunities for different kinds of indoor and outdoor play. These tips for facilitating children's play are from Dr. Jane Hewes' Let the Children Play: Nature's Answer to Learning.


Supporting Research:


• Rieber, L.P. (1996). Seriously Considering Play: Designing interactive learning environments based on the blending of microworlds, simulations, and games. Educational Technology Research and Development.

• Brown, S., & Vaughn, C. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York: Penguin Group Inc.

• Diamond, A., Barnett, W.S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S., (2007). Preschool program improves cognitive control, Science , 318, 1387-1388.

For more information on leading play-based experts and their work, visit the Research section.