Letters to the Editors, July/August 2009

Letters to the editor about the February/March 2009 issue of Scientific American MIND

Playtime for Everyone
Yesterday while going through our mail, Scientific American Mind’s cover line jumped out at me: “The Serious Need for Play. How it improves your creativity, emotional health—and cuts stress” [article by Melinda Wenner]. I was thrilled to see “play” on the cover.

Psychiatrist Stuart Brown is a role model for all of us who strongly believe in play. Readers might like to check out the National Institute for Play Web site,

Pat Rumbaugh
Takoma Park, Md

As a public school teacher of 18 years, I have been dismayed by the reduction of recess time and by the pushing down of inappropriate curriculum into kindergarten and first grade. In a six-hour kindergarten day, kids get a total of 40 minutes of unstructured play. Gone are most of the “house” corners where kids pretended. You won’t find a blocks corner either. I believe strongly in public education, but I couldn’t bear to put my daughter in that setting. She is now in a Waldorf school, where play is nurtured and childhood is protected.

“farmergirl”                                                                                                                                   adapted from a comment at

My delight at seeing a grown-up juggling on the February/March cover quickly damped down on reading the article. Silly me—hoping adult creativity, emotional health and stress reduction would be featured as indicated. By the second paragraph, I was reading about the importance of play for kids.

I concur, but that’s not what I wanted to see. As a professional learning and performance program designer and consultant for business and government, I know the value of play to promote interest, involvement and improvement. Play looks different for adults, but discovery, fun problem solving, creative daydreaming, a little competition and many other techniques produce stunning results.

In my long experience, playfulness and periods of free thought and action produce a sense of satisfaction and mastery for people—in the workplace.

Judith Blair
Boulder, Colo.

Primer for Performance
It is interesting that the title of Elizabeth Svoboda’s article, “Avoiding the Big Choke,” focuses on the negative rather than the positive. It could have been, for instance, “Perform under Pressure.” As a mental skills consultant for athletes, musicians and other performers, I would recommend starting from a more positive perspective.

Overall, the article was interesting, but I think the part discouraging people from “taking their time” was a little dodgy. In my experience, taking time can often be helpful, as a deep breath can allow the mind and especially the body to relax. The important difference here, which I think the article does not take into account, is that such time can be used proactively to focus on key words such as “smooth” or “powerful,” which you mention as a useful technique. Using these phrases with a relaxed body is likely to be more successful than using them with an overhyped one.

This article was originally published with the title "February/March 2009 Issue."

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