Animals at Play: ethology for kids shows that play is universal

Marc Bekoff's Animals at Play: Rules of the Game is a kids' picture book about ethology -- animal behavior -- and play. Informative and fun, the book looks at how many species of mammals and fish play together, among children, adults, and in mixed groups or pairs. Bekoff, an ethologist who taught biology at the University of Colorado and co-founded Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is very comfortable communicating ideas to young people in simple terms that nevertheless convey accurate scientific principles.

I loved this book. The subject -- play -- is one that every kid and parent is immersed in, but perhaps without much conscious thought. By using delightful examples from the animal kingdom, Bekoff invites the reader to investigate the unwritten rules of human play, as with coyotes' insistence on fairness in play, or the way that adult wallabies will "self-handicap" when tussling with adolescents. By linking fun, sociality, apology, fairness, and communication, Bekoff conveys just how fundamental play is to our own lives. What an excellent thing to be reminded of.

Animals at Play: Rules of the Game (Thanks, Avi!)


  1. I really love Marc Bekoff’s work, and am so excited to see him written about on BoingBoing! He’s a brilliant biologist who makes the case that better science requires respect for all animals. I don’t have kids, but I’ll be reading “Animals at Play” with them once I do! In the meantime, I’m excited to read his new book, “The Animal Manifesto,” out next month:

  2. Bekoff is always a great read. Like similar writers, he has clearly recognized that respecting animals means not seeing their bodies as things to slaughter and consume. Citing: “We need to stop having slaughterhouses, which really are weapons of mass destruction. In terms of the sheer numbers of animals who are abused we must reduce the quantity of pain in the world. We just need to stop eating animals.”

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