A bold claim from a bold book called The Art of Roughhousing. But they don’t stop there, here’s the full claim here:
Play—especially active physical play, like roughhousing—makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful.
I for one couldn’t agree more. I’ve been roughhousing with my littles since they were babies. I’m a firm believer in being physical with your kids. My kids and I are the “touchy-feely” type and our affection for each other isn’t expressed only through hugs -but with pile drivers, tickle fests, and flying leaps off random objects. While I think boys benefit most from this type of love language, my daughter is a huge fan as well. Whenever I’m out and about with my kiddos I hear, “wow, you’re so active and affectionate with your kids!” followed by, “wow, your kids are so loving and confident!” Coincidence? I think not.
I first encountered some of the research referenced in the book during college as I was pursuing my degree in Neuropsychology. Harry Harlow’s work with rhesus monkeys is well-known and had stuck with me years later when I was navigating those early years of motherhood.
Physical touch isn’t just a bonus for children, it’s a necessity.
Read his 1958 The Nature of Love study here.
The Art of Roughhousing defines several more benefits of roughhousing that deserve mentioning:
- Roughhousing is good for learning because it provides an opportunity for making mistakes without fear of punishment (Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce).
- Play trains mammals to cope with the unpredictable; it makes their brains more behaviorally flexible and increases their learning capacities (Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce).
- Emotional intelligence improves with roughhousing; children practice revving up and calming down, which helps them learn how to manage strong emotions (Anthony DeBenedet and Lawrence Cohen).
- Physical play releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is like fertilizer for our brains. It helps stimulate neuron growth within the cortex and hippocampus, both of which are vital to higher learning, memory, and advanced behavior such as language and logic (Margot Sunderland).
So what if you’re convinced about the benefits of roughhousing, but don’t know where to start? What are the “rules”? Don’t worry, the authors have included over 150 pages of roughhousing activities complete with diagrams, age appropriateness, and essential skills required. There’s also a quick rundown of “do’s” and “don’ts” in the beginning to help ease you in. For example, a “don’t” is “obnoxious tickling like your big brother did.” Now you know.
What are your thoughts on roughhousing?
Do you use this type of play with your kids?