Question Sheet: Fair Play


Before reading:

  1. Have you ever observed animals playing? What do they do?
  2. Why do adults encourage children to play?

During reading:

  1. What do children learn from playing?
  2. Why does Bekoff rely on videotape to understand animal play?
  3. Explain why some scientists suggest that cooperation is just as important as competition in group play.
  4. Summarize in your own words the “play bow.”
  5. How is play important for coyotes?
  6. How does a capuchin monkey act when it senses that it is being cheated?

After reading:

  1. Why is it important for animals and people to explore the limits of socially appropriate behavior?
  2. Compare how you think play is different for social or communal animals and for those that don’t need interaction.
  3. How does new technology, such as miniature video cameras, help scientists who do research by observing animals?
  4. Given the way that children learn while playing, do you think it is good or helpful for teachers or parents to set limits on children’s play?
  5. In what ways might environment affect play?
  6. Go to three different playgrounds and observe kids playing. What are the similarities in their activities? How are they determining limits of behavior?


Where is Grand Teton National Park? Why would researchers who are interested in coyotes base themselves there? What kind of habitat do coyotes prefer? For information about Grand Teton National Park, see Park Service).


  1. Video is an important tool for understanding animal behavior, but the same technology and footage can also be used in art and entertainment. Go to Vegetable Video). What is the artist, Sam Easterson, trying to do? Write a review of the Web site. How does the artist’s work compare with that of Bekoff? What might the artist and Bekoff learn from each other?
  2. Write a story about a society that does not engage in fair play. How are people different? What are the rules of the society?


Five masters and their five dogs need to cross a river. There’s a boat that can carry no more than three passengers, whether dogs or people, at a time. Each dog will bite another human if its master is not with it, but you can have the dog around with other dogs without its master. A human must be present on all trips to row the boat, unless the passengers include Rex the Wonder Dog, who can also row the boat. How do you get all the dogs and masters across the river without anyone getting bitten?