The Story of the Mind by James Mark Baldwin
The Surplus Energy Theory considers the play impulse
All this goes to support another and most serious objection to this theory--in the mind of all those who believe in the doctrine of evolution. The Surplus-Energy Theory considers the play-impulse, which is one of the most widespread characters of animal life, as merely an accidental thing or by-product--a mere using-up of surplus energies. It is not in any way important to the animals. This makes it impossible to
On the whole, therefore, we find the Surplus-Energy Theory of play quite inadequate.
II. Another theory therefore becomes necessary if we are to meet these difficulties. Such a theory has recently been developed. It holds that the plays of the animals are of the greatest utility to them in this way: they exercise the young animals in the very activities--though in a playful way--in which they must seriously engage later on in life. A survey of the plays of animals with a view to comparing them in each case with the adult activities of the same species, confirms this theory in a remarkably large number of cases. It shows the young anticipating, in their play, the struggles, enjoyments, co-operations, defeats, emergencies, etc., of their after lives, and by learning to cope with all these situations, so preparing themselves for the serious onset of adult responsibilities. On this theory each play becomes a beautiful case of adaptation to nature. The kitten plays with the ball as the old cat handles the mouse; the little dogs wrestle together, and so learn to fight with teeth and claws; the deer run from one another, and so test their speed and learn to escape their enemies. If we watch young animals at play we see that not a muscle or nerve escapes this preliminary training and exercise; and the instinctive tendencies which control the play direct the activities into just the performances which the animal's later life-habits are going on to require.
On this view play becomes of the utmost utility. It is not a by-product, but an essential part of the animal's equipment. Just as the infancy period has been lengthened in the higher animals in order to give the young time to learn all that they require to meet the harsh conditions of life, so during this infancy period they have in the play-instinct a means of the first importance for making good use of their time. It is beautiful to see the adults playing with their young, adapting their strength to the little ones, repeating the same exercises without ceasing, drilling them with infinite pains to greater hardihood, endurance, and skill.