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Why Roughhousing Is Good For Kids

Why Roughhousing Is Good For Kids

Is good old-fashioned rough and tumble play the latest addition to the list of parenting no-no's? (Remember when kids rode in cars without car seats, and played outside without sunscreen?) "My son is a little roughneck thanks to his daddy and uncles and he loves to wrestle with them," says Circle of Moms member Erin B. "But I'm sad because it doesn't seem like we're supposed to be encouraging our kids to play like that anymore."

Indeed, many Circle of Moms members say their kids love to play rough and tumble but that they are worried about whether it's safe to do so, and whether it socializes their kids to be too rough. "My hubby wonders if it is okay to toss our baby up in the air, ‘fly' him around, turn him upside down," says Kharmai T. "I think it is fine, but I wonder." The same concerns rattle Sally M., who says: "My daughter is almost 11 months and sometimes I spin her around to make her dizzy and set her down. I think it's so funny to watch her fumble or rock to the side, and she actually laughs too. I can't imagine it's bad for her, but I want other people's opinions."

The good news is that roughhousing is good for kids. A recent article in the New York Times suggests that rough and tumble play — pillow fights, wrestling, running and rolling around — fosters creativity and empowers children. It's good for them, say Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen, the authors of The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It. Roughhousing, they told the Times, makes kids smart, more likeable, more moral and ethical. It teaches them emotional intelligence, brings them joy, and make them fit.


Circle of Moms member and pediatric nurse Kim D. thinks kids need this kind of impromptu, fun-loving play. Her little girl loves it, and she says, "I am okay with a little roughhousing as long as it is not too vigorous and my daughter enjoys it." Dana S. is another proponent. She enjoys watching her son's delight: "Ethan is gentle in his actions but he loves for us to toss and swing him," she says, adding that rough play seems to embolden him: "He climbs all over everything and up everything and he jumps on the bed. He has no fear at the playground when going down slides (he goes head first, my little thrill seeker)."

How Rough Is Too Rough?

Still, some Circle of Moms members wonder how rough is too rough? As Heather B. says,"All my two-year-old boy wants to do is play rough with his daddy. My husband wants to know how 'rough' he can play with Ryley so that Ryley doesn't start getting too tough and rough with daddy and hitting and biting him."

In the Times article, author DeBenedet says that the "rough" in roughhousing doesn't refer to reckless or dangerous behavior, but rather to creativity in play: "Roughhousers know how to lift and twirl, land and roll, and catch and suspend. It's the unleashing of the creative life force, which is joyful and exuberant."

Another concern of Circle of Moms members voice around rough play is that their child might be tagged a bully. "My son is full of energy and he gravitates towards other boys who are full of energy," says Crystal M. "Some of these other kids like to play rough and that is fine with mine. The rest, however, do not. How can I get my son and other parents to understand [that] this is not bullying?"

While roughhousing is traditionally considered more a pastime to enjoy with dads, moms are increasingly getting in on the action and are loving it. Laci C., whose son "loves to wrestle and be thrown and swung around or dangled upside down," reports that "I'm so happy to be able to enjoy this with him as much as we do."

And roughhousing is hardly just for boys, says Kylie H. "I'd say my oldest is a bit more rough, she's always got bruises on her shins and scraped elbows and she is popular with the boys at school because she loves to play chase and the rough and tumble games. This is a really important kind of play for my children."

Should you play rough and tumble with your kids? 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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