It is easy to see that play may sometimes have a purpose that is perhaps masked by the lack of any adaptive or evolutionary function. Given that young animals borrow actions from aggressive, hunting, foraging, or sexual behaviours, play may serve as a form of practice. Play might help animals become more psychologically flexible. Fagen argues that: "the distinctive aspect of playful practice and learning is that they are generic and variational, requiring varied experiences and stressing interactions between simple components." If this is the case, then perhaps the variation within “play actions” may better prepare an animal to respond adequately in future aggressive or sexual encounters.
So next time you walk by a playground or schoolyard, take a look around. The kinds of games that young children play may echo simpler forms of play seen in animals as different from us as seagulls and coyotes. Some children may remind you of the drop-catching seagull or snowboarding raven, just trying to have a good time. Other games, though, might have a deeper purpose, helping children learn their place in the social world within which they live.