“Play- especially active physical play, like roughhousing- makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, loveable and likeable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful” is the bold assertion made by Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D and Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D. in their book The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It. Not just a couple of dads, but a physician and a psychologist respectively, DeBenedet and Cohen make a compelling case for playing rough and tumble with your children. Their book includes a compilation of fun rough play ideas to do together and suggested age ranges for the various activities from toddlers to teens.
If you have ever seen the glee on a child’s face as you held them aloft on your feet for a game of ‘airplane,’ then you have seen the power of roughhousing at work. Roughhousing is rowdy play without crossing the line to dangerous. Pillow fights, jumping off beds, sliding down stairs, and being swung through the air are all examples of the rough play that stimulates kids physically and has surprising psychological benefits. Emotional regulation, improved motor skills and self-confidence are just a few of brain/ body benefits of physical play.
A great picture book to get you started in imaginative horseplay with your child is Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig. When a rainy day prevents Pete from going out to play with his friends, his dad comes to the rescue by turning him into a pizza. Your child will demand to be rolled out like dough and covered in toppings many, many times over. Try this at home.
See also this article on roughhousing from Parent Map magazine: Roughhousing: A Primer for Parents. Jessica Michaelson. July 21, 2014.