Trained in general and internal medicine, psychiatry and clinical research, he first discovered the importance of play by discerning its absence in a carefully studied group of homicidal young males, beginning with the University of Texas Tower mass murderer, Charles Whitman. He later became founding Clinical Director and Chief of Psychiatry at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center and an Associate Professor at UCSD in San Diego, California. Over the course of his clinical career, he interviewed thousands of people to capture their play profiles. His cataloging of their profiles demonstrated the active presence of play in the accomplishments of the very successful and also identified negative consequences that inevitably accumulate in a play-deprived life.
As he ended his clinical career, he believed that play could be the key to discovering the giftedness that is in everyone, but he realized that identifying the importance of play hadn’t really fully revealed what play is. So, in 1989 upon leaving clinical medicine, he decided to pursue play in greater depth.
He was surprised that much of the play-related research he reviewed was fragmented and lacked quantitative confirmation of factors readily observed clinically. A science and evidence-based way of understanding and suggesting how to improve play hygiene was and still is lacking. He turned to animal play research to gain insights into human play.
With the support of the National Geographic Society and Jane Goodall, he observed animal play in the wild. He became acquainted with the premier animal play experts in the world, and began to see play as a long evolved behavior important for the well being and survival of animals. He subsequently came to understand that humans are uniquely designed by nature to enjoy and participate in play throughout life.
National Institute for Play
PlayCore | Stuart’s blog
Play is more than just fun (TedTalk, 2008, 26 mins)
Why is Play Important? (2016)
The Neuroscience of Play (The Aspen Institute, 2015)
The Promise of Play- PBS series
“Taking Play Seriously” New York Times Magazine (2008)
Play Doesn’t End with Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too (NPR, 2014)
How Does Play Shape Our Environment? (NPR, 2015)
American Journal of Play
International Journal of Play
Animals at Play, (National Geographic magazine, Dec 1994)
Stuart’s book recommendations:
PLAY: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. (Stuart Brown, MD)
Animal Play Behavior (Robert Fagan)
The Ambiguity of Play (Brian Sutton-Smith)
The Playful Classroom (Jed Dearybury + Julie P. Jones)
Chattanooga-based PlayCore/GameTime's Tom Norquist is serious about play
For Mental Health, Just Running Around Is as Important as Running
How toys are keeping me sane during the pandemic
Pueblo nature expert says human's need to play is innate and natural
The socially awkward person’s guide to playing with children
Grown-Ups Need to Play More. Adult Recess Can Help.
Imagine: Forget IQ and EQ, it is all about PQ or playfulness quotient
Play May Be a Deeper Part of Human Nature than We Thought
Why the Best Leaders Act Like Playful Puppies
Early Childhood Development: 5 Proven Benefits Of Play : NPR Ed - includes major report by Association of Pediatricians
What's your play personality?
Why it’s good for grown-ups to go play
Think Seriously about Spending for Play
The Power of Play at Work
The Business Case for Adult Recess
Adult Coloring Books and the Rise of the “Peter Pan” Market
Take Your Play History
More Play and Less Work Makes Us Happier and Healthier
It's Summertime: Let's Play!
The Lost Art of Play