The Nature of Play

Great Apes and Humans

Edited by Anthony D. Pellegrini and Peter K. Smith

December 6, 2004
ISBN 9781593851170
Price: $59.00
308 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"

“Makes a tremendous contribution toward advancing the current state of knowledge about the similarities and differences in play between great apes and humans, and demonstrates that there is much to learn about children's development from studying psychological processes in higher primates.”

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

“This is a comprehensive and broad book, which deals with the vast majority of aspects related with play in animals and humans. It covers distinct cultures and perspectives. It is a multidisciplinary work....It is an international book because of the authors and the cultures researched and, most of all, because of the global perspective that it is a fascinating book to read.”


The Nature of Play provides a broad, interdisciplinary examination of play in primates, incorporating comparative, evolutionary, ecological, and cultural perspectives. Questions about what play is; how, when, and where animals play; how play develops; and why it has evolved are given detailed, scholarly attention by experts in the field. This book is a fascinating read, and one thing is clear—play is very serious business for players and researchers alike. This book would be an excellent text for a graduate seminar on the topic, and is also suitable for advanced undergraduates. Very thoughtful and valuable.”

—Marc Bekoff, PhD, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder

“Written by highly respected experts, this up-to-date volume yields enlightening comparisons of the play of children and our closest animal relatives. In addition to comparing humans and great apes, the book also examines play across a wide range of human societies, distinguishing universal aspects from those that are culturally variable. This book should be required reading for students and scholars of child development, play, and the evolutionary analysis of behavior.”

—Thomas G. Power, PhD, Department of Human Development, Washington State University

“Although there have been previous books on play in nonhuman primates, this is the first one devoted to play in the great apes and humans. In chapters by leading researchers, different types of play are covered both in apes and in humans from a variety of cultures. The relationship between physical or behavioral play and 'mental' play—involving fantasy, imagination, pretense, and symbols—is systematically addressed as well. It is this latter form of play that has been considered strictly limited to humans, and the fascinating examples in apes discussed here are, for me, a highlight of this stimulating volume. This book would be a fine text or supplement to courses in evolutionary, developmental, and comparative psychology; ethology; and animal behavior, as well as courses on play.”

—Gordon M. Burghardt, PhD, Departments of Psychology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; author of The Genesis of Animal Play