What We Learn from Animals: How to Play

Image by Steve Jurvetson*

In a January 21 Huffington Post entry, Brenda Peters writes of important lessons gleaned from the animal world: play in order to thrive.

Peters, who has studied wild dolphins, writes that in play, dolphins learn essential survival and relationship skills. Rats apparently laugh more readily than humans (see the video). In some species, the absence of play could signify that an individual is in psychological distress (see this brief article about chimpanzees from the Jane Goodall Institute). Scientists theorize that individuals who play the most are most instrumental in advancing the evolution of their species (read more in the preface to this book). And in play, both animals and humans let down their guard and take risks—opening themselves up to grow and love and learn, and sometimes opening themselves to real physical danger or loss.

“Play doesn’t end in childhood or in the animal kingdom,” writes Peters. “Play is also about developing a lifelong imagination that is flexible and responsive to one’s environment. True play calls forth from us, animals and humans alike, the highest creativity and inventiveness.” For Peters, to be visionary requires a sense of infinite possibility that may be nurtured in play. Check out her full post here.

Click here to watch a video presentation by Stuart L. Brown, author of National Geographic’s “Animals at Play.”

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.