Both of my children enjoy playing Hide & Seek, as probably all children do. I was particularly amused back when my daughter asked me to help her hide, and then told me to come find her. Her understanding of the game seems rather funny, unless you look at it as a biologist. Then you realize our understanding of the game is the funny thing, in the non-humorous meaning of the word.
Children’s play is not really play. Children are learning the skills they will need to survive in life; or rather, the skills they needed to survive in the past. So they do things that strengthen their bodies and minds. Their activities tend to focus on either conflict and war, or domesticity and peace: they run, wrestle and otherwise fight, throw rocks and other objects, play house, mimic adults and each other, and talk incessantly.
So for some time I have been aware of Hide & Seek teaches children how to escape predators. That’s why it didn’t matter that my daughter asked me to find her even though I was the one who hid her. The real objective isn’t an amusing game, it is identifying the best hiding places from predators, and an adult can be a great help with that.
It occurred to me one day, however, that almost all predators hunt by smell. So simply hiding from them wouldn’t be of much use. And of the few animals that hunt by sight – coursers such as greyhounds come to mind – they don’t actually identify by visual pattern so much as by movement. If you stand very still in your yard when your dog comes running by, unless he smells you he may run right past. In addition, almost no predators can see color so again, simply keeping still is a good tactic for predator avoidance. This is why the faun, and many other animals, simply hold still instead of run.
All of these considerations led to a rather disturbing conclusion about what our ancestors went through. My children are not trying to hide from wolves or tigers.
The predator my children are learning to hide from people. Our number one predator is other people.
Which would be disturbing enough, until you realize the game is Hide and Seek. My children are learning to play the hunter, as well as the hunted.
As I noted, children’s play is not innocent games, and the funny aspects are not all that humorous.
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Picture courtesy of Old-Print.com.