Many animal studies suggest that adult animals who played as juveniles cope better with stressful situations. Even the opportunity to romp with companions or toys for just an hour each day made a difference later in life.
Animals who live in social groups are more successful if they have good relationships with their family members. When hunting, eating, reproducing and finding safety are the biggest priorities in an animal's life, it doesn't bode well to waste energy on unnecessary bickering. Play can enable individuals to learn to communicate more effectively and respect other individuals in their group. In chimpanzees, for example, youngsters who play together have stronger social relationships with their playmates during their youth. Adults play less frequently, instead improving their relationships by grooming.
Practice makes perfect...or at least proficient. Hunting is difficult and requires speed and precision, both of which are improved by lots of trial and error. While some animals are the predators, others are the prey. For them, escape is the key for survival. Foals and antelope can frequently be seen running at full tilt for short bursts, sometimes even kicking up their heels. Yes, it's fun. But it's also practice for evading sneaky (and speedy) predators! Many scientific studies have shown significant differences in brain development of individuals who have played while young vs. those who were unable to do so. It's also likely that play improves a variety of important survival skills.
Many animals live on steep mountains, among rocks on the edges of cliffs, or in the narrow branches of tall trees. Infants aren't born being able to keep their balance or with the muscle tone required to stay safe. Play teaches them about their physical limitations and boundaries.
Suzi's new book Baby Animals Playing is the first in a new series for young children, showcasing ten species from three continents, each engaged in different forms of play. Stunning, intimate, full-color photographs by Suzi Eszterhas are each paired with a short sentence highlighting information about the animal. Designed both as a read-aloud and for young children to explore independently, this book will encourage readers to make connections between themselves and the animals. If your young nature lover would enjoy this book, you can purchase a signed copy from Suzi's website.
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