play therapy quotes

Play Therapy Quotes: Fact or Fiction?

There are some well-known sayings in the play therapy world that are widely accepted as factual statements.

But are they true??

You might be surprised to learn the story behind your favorite play therapy quotes. 

A Year Of Conversation...

I'm guilty of using this one in the past, but after doing a little more research, I cringe a little bit every time I see it posted.

This one is a favorite among play therapists because it perfectly communicates the idea that play is a language.

Do you know the one I am talking about?

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. ~Plato
But is that what Plato really said? 

There is no evidence that Plato said this (AT ALL).  

According to Quote Investigator,  "The earliest significant match known to QI was contained in a short pamphlet published in 1670 titled 'A Letter of Advice to a Young Gentleman Leaving the University Concerning His Behaviour and Conversation in the World' by Richard Lingard."

Quote Investigator teaches us that the original saying translates more specifically from "play" into "game."  At the surface, you might shrug and still feel like it is close enough to convey the same meaning.

However, upon further examination, you learn that Lingard was referring to gambling games, like dice. 

So, what the author was actually saying was that if you can learn a lot about a person's character by how they respond to losing a small or large sum of money in a gambling game. 

And, for the record, the timeframe was actually seven years.  

Quote Investigator goes on to explain that "it seems that the much closer version shows up in the 1857 book titled 'A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs'

"An hour of play discovers more than a year of conversation."

However, this publication does not have Plato as the author.  No author is credited in that version.

And then, according to Quote Investigator,  around 1958, Plato was assigned to this quote.  And then again, and again and again.  

Maybe it sounds Plato-esque.  But given that Plato was born 428/427 BC and died around 348/347, you might think that there would be more evidence to support that theory. 

Sorry to burst your play therapy bubbles, but this one is FICTION

Speaking of Research...

What about this one? 

Play is the highest form of research.  -Albert Einstein

That one has to be true, right?

Again, not exactly.  

The researchers at Quote Investigator looked into this one as well and found that , "In 1962 the journal “Childhood Education” published an article titled “Play is Education” by N. V. Scarfe that contained the following passage: All play is associated with intense thought activity and rapid intellectual growth. The highest form of research is essentially play."

Quote Investigator reports that Einstein did say this:

“The desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of a vague play with basic ideas. This combinatory or associative play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”

That doesn't have quite the same catchy ring to it though.  

And according to Quote Investigator, what happened was that Scarfe made the statement that the highest form of research is essentially play AND THEN followed that with the words (quoted above) that Einstein actually said.  

And as a result, people who read the article misattributed Scarfe's words for Einstein's. can use this quote if you want.

But you should tag N.V. Scarfe instead of Albert Einstein.

Repeating Something Doesn't Make It True

The most recent quote to make the rounds is seemingly popular because it sounds scientific enough to be true.

You may have seen this one:

"Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain—unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions!"~Dr. Karyn Purvis

Some of my  most trusted colleagues have personally tried to hunt this one down.  We really wanted it to be true and factual enough to include in our presentations. And it feels like it could be true. 

And yet, no one can find any published research to back up this claim. 

Many people, including a personal friend of mine Kamini Verma, have reached out to the Karen Purvis Institute of Child Development for clarification.  This is the exact written response that Kamini received from their office:

“This was indeed said by Dr. Purvis. Sadly, before she gave us the reference she became terribly ill and passed away. We have not been able to locate this, so the source went to the grave with Dr. Purvis.”~Karen Purvis Institute of Child Development 

Side note:  I heard Dr. Purvis speak and she was amazing.  The fact that this unsubstantiated research and quote are a tarnish to her work is a sad and inaccurate reflection of her contribution to the field of helping children. 

So, please quote Dr. Purvis, but just don't use this specific quote.  

So before you post a quote, remember this one:

"Don't believe everything you read on the internet." ~Abraham Lincoln

Always do your own research before you post something as fact.  

Are there other famous quotes that have an interesting back story? Please share them with me. 

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About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at


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