Game on: 5 Ways to Boost Learning through Play


We don’t play enough. Play is so much more than just having fun. Play changes our neurobiology and is essential to our neurological growth and development, well-being and creativity. Play allows children to build complex, skilled, responsive, socially adept and cognitively flexible brains. Play has also been identified as one of the primal emotional systems of animals. Adults can benefit from play as a way to boost creativity, imagination, and social agility.

Learning through play is both engaging and effective. We love to play here at Bookphoria. Here are five ways to boost learning through play:

  1. Play can relax the brain and make us more comfortable to take risks and experiment. As adults we become overly concerned with the opinions of others. The fear of embarrassment and social rejection inhibits our creative expression. Play eases these tensions and encourages action.
  2. Play introduces the elements of challenge and reward. Rewards trigger the release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, which Professor David Linden calls “the Compass of Pleasure.” Dopamine increases our internal motivation and desire to learn. When uncertain outcomes are coupled with random rewards, we become even more engaged in the activity. When the brain is busy predicting if we win or lose, it produces more dopamine, which is responsible for focused attention and more pleasurable experience.
  3. Play helps us enter the state of flow, or complete immersion in a task. According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, to achieve the state of flow, we need a careful balance between the level of challenge and the skills of the participant, as well as immediate and unambiguous feedback. Play allows us to create and test those levels of engagements and see our progress, keeping us curious and persistent.
  4. Play prepares us for the unexpected and encourages flexibility. We can change roles and identities like game avatars, consider what-ifs and come up with more creative solutions. Through role playing, we can put ourselves through different kinds of experiences and emotions, learn to better understand other perspectives and produce a more diverse repertory of behavior.
  5. Play leads to mastery. Play is a ritual with its sets of rules and scripts. As any ritual, play creates expectations for a certain kind of behavior and prompts the brain to give commands in accordance with these expectations. We can practice and get better through play. Thus, play offers a fun way to build skills.

As an author, speaker or expert, you can incorporate the elements of play and gamification into your content to boost engagement and learning. Games offer an easy way to introduce your audience to your main messages and teachings. Click here to see a trivia game that The Brain Alchemist developed to promote brain-friendly public speaking.

What kind of game could you create for your readers or audience? Explore and play with us when you sign up for our complimentary consultation at



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