Do you like to monkey around? Who doesn’t, right? As the term is used today, it means to go with the flow, do whatever you feel like and just spend some time idly without being too serious. When you’re monkeying around, you’re just playing around.

After a hard week at school or work, everyone could use some time to monkey around. The phrase probably developed from our experience observing monkeys at zoos. They certainly do seem to take a lighthearted approach to life.

In fact, monkey behavior has led to many popular monkey-related phrases we often hear today. Their playful behavior is the basis of the word “monkeyshine,” which means a harmless prank or mildly rowdy behavior.

Monkeys’ seemingly carefree lives and joyful play have inspired “monkey business” as a description of similar behavior in humans. You may also hear people say something is “more fun than a barrel of monkeys.” We’re not sure how the monkeys would feel about being put in a barrel, but the image it brings to mind is a bit comical!

Are we giving monkeys — and other primates — a bad rap, though? Do they really just hang out and play all day? Are they just silly creatures? Or do they not get enough credit for how smart they really are?

A little animal research actually reveals that primates, including monkeys, apes, chimpanzees and orangutans, are some of the smartest animals in the world! Surprised? Check out some of these incredible examples of primate intelligence:

  • Humans aren’t the only creatures smart enough to make and use tools. In the 1960s, researcher Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees and was amazed to discover that they were able to use sticks to help hunt for ants. Since that time, researchers have learned that chimpanzees can use sign language, make and hunt with their own homemade spears and even beat some humans in basic memory tests!
  • Koko, a lowland gorilla, has learned to use sign language to communicate. She knows more than 1,000 signs and can understand over 2,000 words of spoken English. She even initiates conversations with people! That’s one smart gorilla. How smart? A “normal” human IQ is 100. Koko’s IQ is between 70 and 95!
  • An orangutan named Azy has learned to communicate with symbols that don’t relate to the things they represent. We do this with number and letter symbols. Azy’s achievement shows that a nonhuman species can assign meaning to otherwise meaningless symbols.


72 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (23 votes, avg. 4.57 out of 5)
  1. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I loved today’s wonder! I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about being sick.

    Remember back on wonder of the day #560 – Why are they called deadlines? I thought wonder of the day #561 was the following:

    and Golf.

    I was wrong. Wonder of the day #561 was not the following that is shown above. Wonder of the day #561 was Who invented the high five?


    • Happy Saturday, TJ! It’s AWESOME to get a comment from you today! Even though you didn’t guess exactly right about Wonder #561, we think you were really, really close! If you think about it, players in all of those sports give each other high fives for good plays! We think your guess ROCKED! :-)

    • We think so, too, Caelah! Thanks so much for stopping by Wonderopolis today and leaving us a great comment! :-)

    • Happy Saturday to you, too, Annie! We hope you are having a WONDERful weekend! It’s fun to monkey around! :-)

  2. I am going to see Chimpanzee tomorrow. Did you see the part when Oscar was chewing food and spit it out? I say he’s making guacamole for us to eat. I have a sleepover.

    • That green chewed food does sort of look like guacamole, we agree, POPCTOPICA! We like how the younger chimp is copying the behavior of the older chimp. It’s AWESOME that chimps learn that way just like humans do! Thanks for sharing your comment with us today and we hope you have a GREAT time at the movie! :-)

    • They are really fun to watch, aren’t they, John? We WONDER what they are thinking when they are “monkeying around?” :-)

    • We’re SUPER happy to hear that, Rylie! Thanks for being a GREAT Wonder Friend and visiting this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing that you thought this Wonder was GREAT, Samantha! We appreciate your comment and hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

  3. Hi, Wonderopolis,
    I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about poisin ivy.
    And I was wondering why do strawberries have seeds?

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Those monkeys are soooo cute! I am going to see that movie! It is fun to monkey around because it gets tiring always being on your best behavior and acting serious. Sometimes, you just need to have fun and let loose.
    Paige ;)

    • We agree, Paige…sometimes it’s FUN to let loose and monkey around! Let us know how the movie is when you see it, OK? Thank you SO MUCH for another SUPER comment…we appreciate you, Wonder Friend Paige! :-)

    • Hi, Colton! Thanks for telling us you thought this Wonder was AWESOME! We appreciate hearing from our Wonder Friends and we’re glad you enjoyed learning in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  5. Hey Wonderopolis,
    I saw the movie chimpanzee it was great. I also think it’s cool how chimps are sooo much like humans. I also have one question. How old can chimpanzees get?

    • Thanks for letting us know you saw the movie and that you thought it was GREAT, Elise! We really appreciate your comment! We think your question about chimpanzees is GREAT, too! Here is a really cool page on the San Diego Zoo’s website that tells some SUPER detailed information about chimps: If you look over on the left-hand side of the page, you will see that chimps can live up to 50 years in a zoo environment! :-)

    • Thanks so much for sharing your love of monkeys with your friends in Wonderopolis today, Maya! They are AWESOME creatures full of WONDER! We’re glad you stopped by this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  6. Hi I watched that movie and at the beginning it was so awesome then later in the middle it was so sad and the chimpanzee’s name is Oscar. And I loved the song a lot and the video clip! And did you know that chimpanzee are NOT monkey they are ape because they don’t have tails and monkeys do have tails and as you know that I love monkeys and apes they are sooooooo cutest animal ever! I even have a bed cover that is a monkey. And my mom even bought the monkey doll for my birthday and my birthday just ended last Oct 29 and I am 11 years old. Bye

    Sincerely , Kezia :) ;)

    • Hey there, Monkey Geek! We are so excited that you found another Wonder that was right up your alley! HOORAY! Thanks for sharing all your awesome information about monkeys, apes and chimpanzee! :)

    • Hey there, Alex! We’re glad to hear you enjoy bananas, just like monkeys do! They’re so very good for you, and delicious, too! Monkeys can be pets, but they’re not like a dog or cat, so we’re not sure if they are best kept in the natural habitat or if they would enjoy living in your house. Perhaps you can do some more research about monkeys as pets! :)

  7. I think this video has a catchy song to it and this video is cute. Plus I think you should make another video like this one except it’s about cats and has a different song. The song could be eye of the tiger. Bye. ;)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Alyssa! We’re glad this Wonder video’s song has you tapping your toes! Thanks for sharing your WONDERful suggestions on future Wonders! :)

  8. I love chimpanzees they’re so cute with there ears. And I’ve seen the movie chimpanzee I love this video. It was so cute. I wonder if you will make another chipanzee video.

  9. Wonderopolis you guys are so silly! This whole time I didnt tell you guys, me, Keedyn, and Alex are in the same class! Yep all true! Bye! ;)

  10. That was awesome; me, Alyssa, and Keedyn, and Madalyn are to in the same class. Isn’t awesome how 4 people from the class on the same thing because I showed them?

    • It sure is awesome, Alex, Madalyn, Alyssa, and Keedyn! Thank you for sharing the Wonder with your friends, classmates and family, Alex! WONDERing together is so much fun, and we’re so lucky to have great Wonder Friends like all of you! :)

    • We are so happy that all our WONDERful friends enjoy Wonderopolis so much! HOORAY for fun and WONDERing! :)

    • We Wonder how you like to monkey around, Madalyn? It’s fun to be goofy from time to time- especially when there is good music involved! :)

    • Hey there, Madalyn! Thanks for WONDERing with us, we’re glad you enjoyed our monkey-riffic Wonder! Have a SUPER monkey day! :)

    • We’re glad to hear this Wonder made you get up and dance! Have a super time monkeying around, Madalyn! :)

  11. Hi wonder friends where is wonderopolis located??


    California, Michigan, Hawaii, Alabama, Georgia, and Arizona

    • Hey there, Madalyn! Thanks for sharing your comment and awesome guesses! Wonderopolis can be everywhere– Wonderopolis is a special place… we have Wonder Friends everywhere, so Wonderopolis is everywhere! We are so glad you have been thinking about where we are located, and we hope to Wonder with you again soon! :)

    • Isn’t it awesome, Keedyn?! We are glad that you can Wonder everywhere you go! It’s awesome, just like you! :)

  12. I am going on a camping trip with my friend. And I can talk to you on my computer. You are my wonder friends.

    • Well thank you so very much, Abby! We are glad you liked the song in this Wonder video! Monkeys are super fun to Wonder about, aren’t they? :)

  13. So wonder friend,
    I really like you guys because when I’m bored I can just do this.
    This is the best website EVER THANK YOU for MAKING IT.

    • Hi there Madalyn, thanks for telling us how much you enjoy Wonderopolis! We’re so lucky to have such an awesome Wonder Friend like you! :)

      Feeling bored is no fun– remember there is Wonder all around us! We can use our imaginations by reading a book, checking out a cool new Wonder, or even exploring our very own backyard! What is your favorite WONDERful activity during the summer? :)

  14. Wonder friends I would have to say that my favorite thing to do in the summer is to run and play with friends but that’s just one I love a lot of activities to do in summer what about you guys?

    AND do you guys do wonder videos in the summer?

    • Summer activities are the best, aren’t they Madalyn! We think it’s lots of fun to enjoy the sun with your friends. We love to draw with chalk, run through the sprinkler and go on adventures in our neighborhood! There is so much to Wonder about outside– sometimes we like to follow ants as they march down the sidewalk… we Wonder where they go? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why is it so fun to monkey around?
  • What are some other monkey-related popular phrases?
  • How smart are primates?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Want to learn more about chimpanzees? Visit Disneynature to download the Chimpanzee Educator’s Guide. It contains over 100 pages of information about a variety of topics, including habitats and ecosystems, chimpanzee behavior and communication and how to protect chimpanzees and make a positive difference for wildlife around the world.

When you’re ready for a break, how about spending some time just monkeying around? What’s your favorite way to monkey around? Who do you like to monkey around with?

Share your favorite ways to monkey around with your Wonder Friends by posting ideas or pictures on Facebook. We can’t wait to learn new ways to monkey around!


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National Geographic Xpeditions’ Really Wild Animals: Will People Change Them Forever? lesson asks children to consider the ways in which human activities in the rain forest might affect the behaviors of some well-known animals.


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