Rough and Tumble Play is Good for Kiddos

I have heard it before and actually was a natural at accepting that rough n tumble play is a good thing for these sons of mine. It is funny thinking back to the first days of these two boys being two years and six days apart, their first friendship was a toss on the ground to a wrestling match between the two. Chasing each other to give hugs and smiling as they enjoyed their brotherhood.

Video: My boys when they were younger enjoying each others company.

My sons can give others quite the scare, they are rough n tumble. Pretend punching, kicking, hitting and grabbing each other to wrestle to the ground or on my sleep number bed is a common occurrence in this household. And it’s good for them. Yes you heard me, rough n tumble play is good for them.

Rough n tumble play is okay because there are some things about it, it’s not aggressive play in that anyone is being taken advantage of, being hurt nor having their personal space being invaded. Rough n Tumble play is a non-verbal communication between two or more people (or children in this case) where they are happy, smiling at times and truly enjoying the rough nature of their playtime.

If you are a parent struggling with accepting rough n tumble play for your child, then read on!  I recently took part in a webinar with Mattel regarding rough n tumble play and would love to share with you some tips/facts about the topic that I learned –

  • Rough and Tumble play (R&T) is sometimes known as “roughhousing”.
  • R&T can involve chasing and fleeing, tag, falling on one another, or wrestling.
  • R&T is both a positive and necessary form of play for children, particularly for boys, who experience a spike in testosterone at around age four and need an outlet for their sudden feelings of playful aggression.
  • Gives boys an opportunity to learn their power, develop competence in their motor skills, and to imitate their role models.
  • Linked with academic achievement, giving children an opportunity experiment with concepts in the real world.
  • With R&T, there is an understanding of play and collaboration between the players – leading to far less injury.
  • If guided properly, boys learn the difference between aggression and this form of physical play.

As you know, I have two sons, which means I have to be sure to monitor all rough n tumble play to ensure it doesn’t turn into aggressive behavior. I am not 100% perfect at monitoring properly but I try and here are some tips provided to me for parents to be able to be a positive part in their children’s rough n tumble play experiences:

  • Set some basic rules, such as “no touching of faces” and “no shoes”.
  • Let children be in charge of making some of the rules and enforcing them.
  • Intervene only when the play turns combative; if parents intervene too often or too soon, children won’t learn conflict resolution on their own
  • Not sure if it’s playing or fighting? Ask the participants if they see the difference and if everyone agrees.
  • Parents should also engage in Rough and Tumble play with their children – whether its wrestling with Dad or “tickle fights” with Mom – the physical contact helps kids build relationships.

I love that last bullet point, why? Because that is how my four year old enjoys playing with me. K-man will ask to go have a tickle fight and just enjoys me being the “tickle monster” while I go crazy tickling him all over. I take moment breaks for him to catch is breath and then start tickling again. He loves this tickle monster time and it has truly brought us closer as mother & son.

The webinar I took part in with Mattel means that they will be sending my family some WWE Brawlin Buddies so that my kids can enjoy rough n tumble play while acting out with their favorite wrestling figures. Those products will be sent to me for free and I will be sharing more on our journey of rough n tumble play in the future here on site!

Do you allow rough n tumble play in your home? What are some things you do with your kids that encourage this love of physical play while being safe?

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  1. I agree – it is good for them. They need to know how to safely interact with others & they’ll definitely take what they learned by “rough” playing out into the real world. My brother was always one of those kids who didn’t know his own strength, so my parents always discouraged him and told him if other kids were rough with him that he should back down. He was a very easy target because all the other kids knew he wouldn’t do anything about it if they picked on him or threw things at him, etc. Until he snapped in 8th or 9th grade and sent some poor little boy to the hospital. I think if they helped him understand what was acceptable and safe early on, the poor kid would have been spared. But no one ever EVER messed with my brother after that.

  2. I have three boys, rough & tumble are their middle names, especially the older two…but they’re always respectful of each other. The two oldest are grown and have upped it a notch to punching each other to show their affection, but they’re 19 and 24, so too old for a time out now. 😉

    My daughter is not immune either…it’s not unusual for either one of her big brothers to scoop her up and take off running or carry her upside down on their shoulders, and frankly I think she loves it. 🙂

  3. Rough and tumble is my son’s favorite past time. As an only kid, his favorite target is our dog, cat and….me. I think it’s a great way for him to exercise and show his affection. I don’t worry because he’s careful and he knows when it’s too much and when to stop. I don’t worry about the pets getting mad either, I can see that they love it when my son plays with them.

  4. I have a very young son and an older daughter, so I have yet to experience this, but I think if a child is having fun and everyone is in agreement, there is nothing wrong w/ playing like this!


  5. There is a GREAT book – it is called Renegade Rules of Parenting. It agrees with what you said. You have to let boys roughhouse, climb, jump, run, be load, nothing wrong with pretend guns and pretend wars… it is all socialization, learning to be fair, learning limits. Just like puppies play rough, kids play rough. Not to the point of infringing on someone else’s rights or hurting someone or bullying – that is different. But that is also how it teaches them to RESPECT other children’s limits. Good post and great point!

  6. My son’s 12 now and he still likes to Rough and Tumble with his friends in the backyard playing football. I guess it’s just a boy thing. Do boys ever really grow up? LOL

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