From human nature last week to animal lives this week, play is important for all living creatures! Marc Bekoff is a field biologist, professor emeritus from the University of Colorado, and co-found with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I love that play shows up in so many different professions. And based on Marc Bekoff’s research, play also appears to be important for animals.
Marc Bekoff on Play
“Play is training for the unexpected”
As children play, they encounter and explore new situations. They revisit past experiences and create a situation where they can act out the part they saw someone else play. After every doctor visit, our kids spend a few days pretending to be a doctor, checking the eyes, ears, and throats of each other, their dolls and their stuffed animals. We also make the most of this path for learning by presenting difficult situations and play acting how we would respond. We spent a really fun afternoon pretending to call 911 so the kids could practice saying their names, their parents’ names and their address. I started out being the operator while each child practiced then they wanted to take turns being the operator and practiced “calling” 911 and working through a dangerous situation. If they said a silly situation, that wouldn’t need a 911 call, they were able to immediately see that they wouldn’t need to call 911 for that and self-corrected. In our play, they were training for the what-ifs we hope never happen, but developing the skills needed for just in case.
Mark Bekoff’s work on understanding and protecting animals spans four decades. He’s written several books about animals and their emotions and play. When passion meets action, changes can happen. Marc Bekoff is an example of that in his activism for animals. Two of his books look particularly interesting for young children: Jasper’s Story and Animals at Play: Rules of the Game.