The cognitive benefits of play: Effects on the learning brain

Author(s): Gwen Dewar, Ph.D.


  • Play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex
  • Play and exploration trigger the secretion of BDNF, a substance essential for the growth of brain cells
  • Kids pay more attention to academic tasks when they are given frequent, brief opportunities for free play (P.E. is not an adequate substitute for free play)
  • Play is linked with better language skills
  • Play promotes creative problem-solving
Dewar, Gwen. “The Cognitive Benefits of Play: Effects on the Learning Brain.” Parenting Science” The Science of Child-Rearing and Child Development, Parenting Science, 2014,