How play makes wholehearted families

Do you know Brené Brown? She’s known for her research on vulnerability and shame and has a very famous TED talk. She’s also written an impressive selection of books on topics dealing with vulnerability, leadership, and parenting. And she has a new podcast called Unlocking Us.

I came across her audiobook The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, and I am so glad I did. She is a wonderful storyteller and it is easy to listen to her books. The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting is filled with not just good advice, but good reflections centered around what she calls guideposts for raising wholehearted families.

The ten guideposts are:

Shame, vulnerability, perfectionism, hope, gratitude & joy, boundaries, creativity, play, respect & hard work, and being cool.

While play is essential for developing children, it turns out that play is also essential for adults and families. Brené Brown refers to Dr. Stuart Brown’s (no relation) studies on play in her book.

Stuart Brown was a violence researcher who came to study play when he realized that some violent offenders were not allowed to play as children; they had very strict parents that didn’t allow play. Stuart Brown has found that the act of playing is essential to developing creativity, empathy, trust, and boundaries. And it is something that humans benefit from in their entire lives, not just in childhood.

View his TED Talk, Play is more than just fun and read articles by Dr. Brown.

Brené Brown then recounts that when she learned of these studies, she decided that she needed to bring more play into their family. When she talked about this with her family, her six year old son immediately got excited and grabbed Candyland. This led her to realize that what is play for children is not always the same thing for adults. 

Some of the properties of playing are:

  • Time spent without purpose
  • Something that you don’t want to end
  • When one loses a sense of self

I found her story about creating a Venn diagram for her family after asking for her family members’ input to be humorous, but practical. Afterwards, she found lots of play activities that everyone in the family enjoyed and it changed the way they spent time together as a family.

So play is essential not just for developing children but for wholehearted families as well. At the end of the play guidepost, Brené offered this quote by Brian Sutton-Smith:

"The opposite of play isn't work. It's depression." 

Instead of giving activities for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, I am offering adults two questions:

  • What activities do you love to do where you lose track of time?
  • How can you blend your sense of play with your child’s?

You can find Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto on her website

-Sarah, Children’s Librarian, Martha Cooper Library


A Year of Play resource for children ages 0-3

Read, Write, Talk, Sing, Play!

Play comes so naturally to children and is an essential element to lifelong success. When children play, they are practicing and perfecting early literacy and life skills!

Read more about early literacy and how you can make a difference in your child's life.