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  • Olivia Sanders
    Olivia Sanders

    The Joy of Roughhousing: Rediscovering the Benefits of Physical Play with Kids

    Young children, like cats and puppies, naturally engage in roughhousing. The sight of a toddler tumbling down a hill in an uncontrollable somersault or a kindergartener sack-racing to victory on the playground can make us smile and recall our own childhood memories with great nostalgia. Play fighting, piggyback rides, tug of war, and tickling wars—these are all part of the parental ritual that has been passed down for generations without much thought as to why.

    However, recent research into the science of roughhousing tells us it's more than just fun and games. As it turns out, this exuberant engagement with physical play offers plenty of benefits for both parent and child. Sadly, many modern parents decline to take part in rowdy play with their youngsters, opting instead to become observers. Let's explore the reasons why roughhousing is essential to a thriving parent-child relationship, and how anyone can partake in the fun.

    First, it's important to emphasize the caveat of "safe" while talking about physical play. While it's crucial to be enthusiastically involved, always be mindful if the game gets too out-of-hand. Make sure not to cause any intentional pain or injury. Use gentle, non-threatening language and maintain a delicate balance of power. This is especially important for fathers playing with daughters—they may have a higher threshold for roughhousing, but it's important to respect their boundaries.

    Physical play can bridge the gap between parent and child, but rougher forms of play can bring about more than just a parent-child bond, it can also unlock creativity and compassion. Play opens a channel of communication between adults and kids, offering a platform to express things that might otherwise stay hidden. It also encourages problem solving, resilience, collaboration, and self-confidence. Through playful interaction, both adults and children can develop healthy ways of expressing feelings and emotions.

    Moreover, roughhousing has a natural rhythm, and respecting that flow is key. Begin calmly and gradually build up the intensity of the action. Once the play reaches a peak, it's time to come back down to the ground. Ease back on the action until both parent and child are ready to call it quits. This gentle arc will help keep the play safe, healthy, and enjoyable.

    Roughhousing is as much about cultivating a physical relationship as it is developing mental and emotional endurance. Despite the occasional bumps and bruises, a safe, vibrant form of physical engagement can enrich your family life and give your child a greater sense of identity within the world. Sure, there may be times when roughhousing gets a bit too rough, but if done correctly, the rewards are well worth the risks. So next time the urge to tussle strikes, don't stop yourself—leap in, start playing, and reap the satisfying rewards of close physical play.

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