Book Reviews

Book Review # 1

A History Of Children's Play And Play Environments:

Toward A Contemporary Child-Saving Movement

By Joe L. Frost


In A History of Children’s Play and Play Environments: Toward a Contemporary Child Saving Movement, author Joe Frost warns that children have become increasingly inactive, abandoning traditional outdoor play for sedentary, indoor “cyber play” and diets of junk food. While acknowledging that cyber play is here to stay and enables children to develop many skills well-suited for our technology-oriented lifestyle, Frost cautions that “screen time” is no substitute for the many benefits kids gain from unstructured, free play.

Frost explores the evolution of play and why it needs to be reestablished as a priority, proposing numerous solutions to today’s play deprivation. After the much-publicized planting of the White House vegetable garden last Spring, Frost’s discussion of school gardens as an answer may be of particular interest. He argues that the creation of school gardens assists children in learning to use their hands, as well as developing quick observation and decision making skills by helping them develop a sense of ownership and responsibility. He also comments on the interrelatedness of school gardens, nature, and playground movements, citing decade-long research by Laura Lawson.

Joe Frost’s extensive research traces the history of children’s play and play environments from their roots in ancient Greece and Rome to the present time in the high stakes testing environment. This book is a must read for scholars and researchers in the fields of early childhood education and child development, as well as parents concerned about the health and well-being of their children.

Often called “the contemporary father of play advocacy,” Dr. Frost is the Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin, and an esteemed pioneer in the field of early childhood education and development.  He is on the Board of Advisors for the Voice of Play,, an initiative designed to educate the public about the many benefits of play and increase overall free, outdoor play time for children.

Book Review # 2


How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

by Stuart Brown, M.D.


Stuart Brown, M.D. has spent his career exploring what few people take seriously – play.  Play is hardwired into our brains – it is the mechanism by which people develop social skills, adaptability, intelligence, creativity, problem solving skills and more. This groundbreaking book on the science of play, and its essential role in shaping intelligence and happiness throughout our lives, is a must read for anyone who has put play on the backburner for not only their children, but themselves. 


As we become adults, we begin to feel that taking time to play is a guilty pleasure, merely a distraction from the real world, but Brown illustrates how play is anything but trivial for children, adults, and even animals. You may find of particular interest Brown’s views on play in the office. He discusses how play is becoming a recognized component of success, specifically citing Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a premier aerospace research facility. When faced with a certain lack of creativity in new engineering hires, JPL realized that successful former employees all had something in common – as children they had taken apart clocks to see how they worked, made soapbox derby racers, built hi-fi stereos, or fixed appliances.  From that point on, JPL made inquiries about projects applicants did when they were children during the hiring process, improving their staff’s ability to tackle tough engineering challenges.


The book explores play from the vantage points of neuroscience, biology, psychology and social science. Whether you’re a scholar of play and human development, or a more casual reader, Play underscores the importance of play for a lifetime and how it is as integral to our health and well being as sleep and nutrition. 


Brown is a medical doctor, psychiatrist, clinical researcher, and the Founder of the National Institute for Play.  He speaks regularly to Fortune 500 companies and groups across the country on the importance of play in our lives, and serves on the Voice of Play’s Board of Advisors.