As children, we learn every day how to do life, from the basics of how to eat, get dressed, tie our shoes to more complex educational and societal lessons. Children need the release of play, at intervals, as a break from all that learning. Play is generally recognized as an essential part of growing up and is built-in. Kids have recess, build forts, cultivate hobbies, and create unique worlds, characters, secret languages and societies.

Maturity is conventionally seen as a process that sheds the simple silly self, puts on a business suit and begins gravely shaking hands with the end of fun and games. Unfortunately, this can be a death march for the brain and soul according to Dr. Stuart Brown, co-author of “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul.” Citing examples from animal research, Brown writes that play is necessary: “the pervasiveness of play throughout nature argues that the activity must have some purpose after all. Animals don’t have much leeway for wasteful ­behaviors. Most live in demanding ­environments in which they have to compete to find food, compete with other species and compete to mate successfully. Why would they waste their time and energy in nonproductive activity like play?” He argues that sleep and play are “essential long-term organizers of brain development and adaptability.”

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