By JL Watkins, The GalTime Guy
There's a nightly routine in my home when it's my responsibility to get our three-year-old daughter, Eliza, ready for bed. Several minutes into it all, my wife will inevitably yell at us down the hallway, "What is going on in there?" as I let Eliza jump on the bed and assist her in crazy gymnastic maneuvers.
Sure, it might look like we're messing around, but in reality I'm helping expand her mental growth. That's the lesson (and excuse) that I've learned after reading the incredibly fun book, "The Art of Roughhousing" by Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D. and Lawrence J, Cohen, Ph.D.
Related: Is a Messy Room Worth Fighting Over?
In the book, the authors make the case for interactive, rowdy play with their "Bold Claim" for the old-fashioned tradition of roughhousing:
"Roughhousing activates many different parts of the body and the brain, from the amygdalae, which process emotions, and the cerebellum, which handles complex motor skills, to the prefrontal cortex, which makes high-level judgments. The result is that every roughhousing playtime is beneficial for body and brain as well as for the loftiest levels of the human spirit: social awareness, cooperation, fairness, and altruism."
They go on to say that kids who engage in horseplay with their dads are often more likeable, physically fit, and emotionally intelligent.
That's great news, especially for me, because it will be so much easier to justify the game of "pizza" that Eliza and I like to play in the evening. (In case you're curious: 'Pizza' is when I toss her in the air above the bed, roll her around like dough, and then pretend to bake her in the oven by stacking pillows and blankets on her.) The majority of the book lays out safe and inventive games for parents and kids to play. And judging by the names alone - "Flying Fox", "Ninja Warrior" and "Ejection Seat" - they all seem rather exciting, but the authors also provide a ton of convenient illustrations to safely map out the fun.
Keeping Safe While Having Fun
Of course, safety is always a concern for parents when it comes to roughhousing. The book has a fascinating introduction about how our parenting culture has gone from "Safety First" over the past few decades to "Safety Only" - which they then follow-up with all the right messages about having fun without getting physically and emotionally hurt. They talk about setting limits, and give smart advice on figuring out when your kid has had enough.
When Eliza and I run around the house pretending to be helicopters or dragons, I know we're having a good time and strengthening the bond between us. I suspect she's having a great time, but I'll admit it makes me smile inside when she shouts out, "Again, Daddy!" after some crazy stunt or maneuver we just perfected.
The authors are quick to point out that kids aren't the only one who receive the benefits of a little rowdy fun:
"In fact, all the benefits of roughhousing apply to us as well as to our children, from boosting our emotional intelligence (as we tune in to our kids) to practicing empathy and moral judgment (as we hold back our strength and let our kids bowl us over). Active physical play is the best way for parents and children to build a strong, close, lasting bond. Obviously, this attachment is good news for kids, but it's even better news for grown-ups, especially dads, since many of us didn't get enough of that closeness when we were young. As dads, one thing we love about roughhousing is that it starts with physical activity but also stretches us in less familiar areas, like feelings, closeness, and intimacy."
I know that I only have a few more years until my little one is older and doesn't want to play all these crazy games with her dad. I'm anxious to make every moment count from the fun and loud moments all the way to the REALLY FUN and REALLY LOUD moments.
[ Note: If you're looking for a great Father's Day present, or just some more fun ideas for interacting with your child, the "Art of Roughhousing" (published by Quirk Books) is definitely worth checking out. ]
What do you think about roughhousing? Is it necessary, wonderful, too much?
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