The National Institute for Play unlocks the human potential through play in all stages of life using science to discover all that play has to teach us about transforming our world.

The Vision


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Dr. Stuart Brown

We envision a near term future where all existing scientific research related to human play -- currently scattered across a range of scientific disciplines and only partially identified as human-play-related --- is integrated and the field of Human Play is a credentialed discipline in the scientific community. We envision a longer term future in which the science of Human play enables individuals, parents, teachers, leaders, and organizations to harness the power of play to create transformational differences in their individual, family, school and organizational lives. A future in which school systems have used the knowledge of play to topple the current morass in K-12 education and a future in which public and private sector leaders have used play practices to reform organizational policies and create organizations capable of producing innovative products and services.

Dr. Stuart Brown had an early insight that play is a developmentally important human process. Here is how that insight evolved to the vision he has today for the National Institute for Play.

Discovers importance of play from its absence

Texas Tower - Charles Whitman

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.

He was consulting psychiatrist, to Texas Governor John Connally's Fact Finding Task Force for the Charles J. Whitman Texas Tower Case. This work led to additional research on the causes of violence which pointed to lack of play as a significant contributing factor.

He later became founding Clinical Director and Chief of Psychiatry at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center and an Associate Professor at UCSD in San Diego, where he monitored play in the lives of his patients.

The Charles Whitman Case >

Catalogs the play profiles of over 8,000 people

“Conducted 8,000 interviews”

Throughout and following his clinical career, he cataloged the positive contributions play behavior appeared to provide to the player, as well as to demonstrate the negative consequences that inevitably accumulate in a play-deprived life.

His personal data indicated strongly the importance of play to success in life. But, most of the play-related research he discovered was fragmented and lacked quantitative confirmation of what could be readily observed clinically.

Dr. Brown left clinical medicine in 1989 to explore the question “What is Play?” in great depth. He turned to the study of animal play to deepen his understanding of human play. 

Promotes the value of play to mainstream audiences.

Two unlikely playmates >

By studying the practice of Play in all its forms in animals and humans and anchoring all the findings in scientific research, Dr. Brown and his Institute for Play have been acknowledged as the foremost authority and the practical champions of the knowledge of PLAY.

“Dr. Brown is the world’s foremost practical champion of the knowledge of play.”
William Burns,
Executive Director & CEO

Association for Play Therapy

In 2006, as the implications of science of play have been expanding, it became clear that a larger and professionally managed organization was going to be needed to manifest the potential. The National Institute for Play became successor to the Institute for Play.  The current distinguished Board of Directors took on governance of the expanded charter and, a remarkably eclectic and knowledgeable Council of Advisors was convened. All have joined Dr. Brown in a committment to fostering the development of science-based knowledge of play and bringing the knowledge and benefits of play to public awareness and action.  

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