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Thursday, March 12, 2015

It's a Jungle Gym Out There: How 7 Different Animal Species Love to Play

Photo by Taro the Shiba Inu (Flickr)

Kids are giddy and bursting with life as they run, jump, climb, and make believe! If your kids are like my two lively wildflowers, they love to pretend to be animals frolicking about with nary a worry. Truth is, this imaginary play is quite accurate! Many animal species prance, nip, and playfully skirmish as they grow. Why do they play, despite the expended energy and risk? The BBC states that it preps them for adulthood as they learn to socialize and hunt. It also builds muscle and sharpens reflexes. But beyond that, animals love to have fun, just like us. Here are 7 animals that know how to have a good time:

1. Dogs

Have you ever played fetch with a dog or witnessed a joyous tossle petween pups? Dogs love to play! It goes beyond the simple survival instinct to develop hunting and self-defense skills; there are emotions packed into the play signals dogs offer. In fact, scientists believe there may be a moral code exchanged between playful pups. The "play bow" serves as a way to diffuse aggression and invite a jovial exchange of pounces, nips, and chases. The depth of self-expression that dogs possess is one of the many reasons we develop such wonderful bonds with them.

2. Elephants

These massive, intelligent creatures bobble their heads as an invitation to play! They roll in the mud and spray each other with water to keep their hides cool and to protect against bugs. Try to resist smiling as they play with tires! Young elephant calves also love to climb on each other and cuddle.

3. Dolphins

We all know dolphins are wildly intelligent, but did you know they are play entrepreneurs too? Clans of dolphins have been known to invent games and teach them to their young. Highly social and acrobatic, these sea mammals love jumping, chattering, toying with seaweed, blowing bubbles, and chasing each other.

4. Pandas

Do your kids love jungle gyms as much as mine do? So do pandas! These fluffy, oreo-colored mammals climb on almost anything. They love to swing, socialize, and roll. Pandas even enjoy snow days! Animal behaviorialists believe that this baby panda named Bao Bao couldn't resist her "innate urge to play". While she's having fun, she's also learning an instinctive skill she would need in the wild to escape predators.

5. Cats

Cats, whether they're the kings of the jungle or domesticated kittens, spend hours each day playing. They pounce, chase, and run alone or with members of their clowder. These actions help cats practice their survival techniques. While they prefer realistic toys that mimic prey, cats are like kids; they can turn almost any object into a toy!

6. Monkeys

Monkeys are inquisitive, energetic, and impish, especially as they are growing through adolescence. They have fun as they primp and prod each other, helping to maintain hygiene. They also wrestle and chase each other. With all of the antics these creatures pull, it's no wonder you might nickname your kids "little monkeys" whenever they're rambunctious, social, and eager to play.

7. Horses

Rolling in the dirt, chasing butterflies and frolicking with each other are just three fun activities both wild and domesticated horses enjoy. A playing horse is growing physically, mentally, and socially stronger. They play with balls, unleash wild bursts of energy as they gallop, and play-fight to establish dominance. These majestic animals need to move!

Every animal has their own unique flavor of play, including humans. There is one uniting factor, however! Play is more than just fun and games; it builds the skills needed to survive and thrive. It's a jungle out there. Like these animals, make sure to enjoy it with your kids as they grow and learn!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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