What I Learned About Rough and Tumble Play

I am reading a book called Big Body Play by Frances M. Carlson. I highly recommend it because Ms. Carlson does a great job of explaining the difference between rough and tumble play and aggressive behavior. She spent three years researching the value of big body play, and the book is filled with wonderful information about WHY children need to be allowed to experience the risks and challenges that age-appropriate roughhousing offers.

As I was reading, I thought about all the times that I have personally said, “Be careful or you might get hurt,” to my children and grandchildren.  My husband just smiles and allows them to continue what they are doing. I understand that it truly takes us all to raise emotionally healthy children, and research confirms that men typically allow children to experience things with more risks involved than women do.

Parenting is tough. We work hard to protect our children from things that will hurt them, and then we hear we need to lighten up. We work hard to provide great gifts to them, and then we feel that we are indulging them. Yet when we hold back, we feel that we are depriving them. They do not arrive with a handbook, and we love them so much that we want to do it right.

I am confident of this: Your child will have a wonderful childhood if you love deeply, trust your instincts, seek knowledge, act responsibly, stretch your own understanding to include new ways of thinking, and surround you and your child with a loving village of support.

You might go through seasons of being a hovering parent, or you might let your child get hurt because you didn’t stop her from jumping off of a ledge that was just a little too high, or you might have to wipe away some tears because you tried something that didn’t work out right. But remember this: We are ALL growing, learning, and walking through this thing called LIFE together.

As I read Ms. Carlson’s book, I feel badly that I didn’t allow my children, who are now ages 19, 30 and 33, to roughhouse as much as I should have. Perhaps their spatial and cognitive skills were affected by my protective ways, but maybe the village around them provided balance. However, I am seeking knowledge and will try to put it to work on my beautiful grandchildren.

Written by Donna McClintock, COO Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

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