Locomotor Play in Children
Young children love to run, and do so in many of their games, such as tag and hide-and-go-seek. Running also is found in other forms of outdoor play, even when children are not playing a specific "game" -- be it running to the swingset, running to the corner, or skipping and hopping on the sidewalk. Much to the frustration of parents, children often bring these outside activities indoors and run up the stairs, chase one another around the house, or jump on a bed.
Descriptive studies of locomotor play in humans are hard to find. In a commentary on Pellegrini and Smith's ( 1998) recent review of this literature, Byers ( 1998) wrote: "I find it incredible that there are no complete accounts of the rates at which play motor acts are performed across human postnatal development, and I hope that the Pellegrini & Smith review will prompt a lot of this important descriptive work" (p. 599).
The few studies that have been done, however, suggest that human locomotor play is in many ways similar to that of other animals (e.g., Aldis, 1975; Blurton-Jones, 1967). As already mentioned, one of the limitations of the research on children's locomotor play is that chasing play is often coded as part of rough-and-tumble play, with no differentiation in the research between play-chasing and play-fighting.
As with other animals, it is likely that the development of running ability was selected for in human evolution because it facilitated both escape from predators and capture of prey. Descriptions of its structure (see later discussion in this chapter) indicate that locomotor play is made up of some of the same components as serious flight and pursuit. It is also likely that locomotor play has some of the same risks for humans as for other animals, including eliciting aggression, sustaining injury, alerting predators, becoming separated from the caregiver, and using up time and energy.