Play to Live

Life Skills and Joy Through the Natural Talent to Play

Non-Fiction - Health - Fitness
119 Pages
Reviewed on 05/12/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Samantha Coville for Readers' Favorite

The way that children play, and the way parents view and react to how they play, has changed drastically over the past few decades. Play to Live: Life Skills and Joy Through the Natural Talent to Play by Brian VanDongen examines this fact in depth and asks why this is the case. More importantly, it dives into how parents can deviate from the modern version of play, which is filled with online chats and cellphones, and shows how to use play time as an enriching and educational experience. As well as fun, of course. Author Brian VanDongen uses his own personal stories from growing up to share invaluable advice that will be helpful to both first-time parents and returning pros alike.

Play to Live simply oozes nostalgia in between the paragraphs and conclusion areas of each chapter, which are packed with to the point advice. Brian VanDongen reminds you of the days when you'd stay out until the streetlights came on and when a slinky or a stick could provide hours of amusements. And it gets you wondering why it can't still be that way to some extent. The author does a wonderful job of balancing acceptance that the world has changed and trying to keep some things the same. There are practical and helpful tips to provide your child with unique, fun, safe, adventurous play experiences that will not only help with bonding and family fun but develop your child's cognitive skills and resourcefulness. This little book packs a punch and I couldn't recommend it more highly. This could be an especially useful baby shower gift!

Edith Wairimu

Play to Live: Life Skills and Joy Through the Natural Talent to Play by Brian VanDongen challenges the common viewpoint that play should be reserved for children only. The book takes a look at how freeing play has diminished through the years and has become replaced by organized, competitive sports. It discusses ways that play can be incorporated into the household to encourage solution-finding and creativity. According to VanDongen, play should not be restricted to children alone as it has been proven to have amazing physical and mental health benefits for adults too. He also differentiates between risky and dangerous play where risky play, unlike dangerous play, enhances a child’s decision-making skills.

Play to Live contains enlightening information as it redefines how play should be perceived. It reminds readers of how play is an integral part of our lives, regardless of our age, since it is a skill that builds cognitive abilities and contributes to better health. VanDongen explores various eye-opening ways of parenting that encourage risk-taking and decision-making among children. At the end of each chapter, a section designated “Here’s the Play” examines key points in each particular section and provides ways in which the messages can be actualized. Various informative sources are cited that provide opportunities for further reading on the topic. Brian VanDongen’s work is informative both to adults and children and for readers who want to learn about the important role play should have in our lives.

Asher Syed

Play to Live: Life Skills and Joy Through the Natural Talent to Play by Brian VanDongen is a non-fiction book that discusses the decline of free play for children, how and why it occurred, the negative impact of raising children in fear and bubble wrap, and how best to allow children free play in a day and age where “stranger danger” is at the tip of most tongues. VanDongen presents a handful of play stories, then follows with a lesson on change, and finally with free play tips and ideas. At the heart of children losing the ability to free play are, primarily but certainly not exclusively, a wildly litigious country where even the slightest injury is a liability and a 24-hour news cycle where everything that might and could happen becomes sensationalized and leads guardians to believe that children are less safe today (when they aren't).

Play to Live immediately grabbed my attention as soon as I saw it, and Brian VanDongen has done an exceptional job in balancing the need for responsible play with the need for a child's physical and intellectual freedom and independence. The stories brought to light the divide we face when a parent is visited by the police for allowing their younger children to ride their bikes on their own street, and the glory days of yesteryear when a cul de sac was our own personal baseball stadium. I especially loved VanDongen's tale of a museum that was forced to close off a children's exhibit called The Idea Factory, because it was deemed too dangerous even though it was enclosed, supervised, and popular. I feel that books such as this are necessary, and hope that children and adults will find their way back to play, and learn once more that to play is to live.