The Benefits of Roughhousing With Your Kids
November 6, 2023
It’s no secret that children love energetic and physical play. Instead of sitting still and playing quietly, they’d rather be running, jumping, and tackling each other. As moms, it’s hard not to see the boisterous play as an accident waiting to happen. After all, the noise is something akin to an elephant stampede, and it can drive us to the brink as we shout, “KEEP IT DOWN!” But, is horseplay something we should encourage rather than stop? It turns out, yes, rough play actually is good for your kids. Although dads typically love roughhousing with their little ones, throwing them on the bed or wrestling on the floor, moms tend to engage less in this kind of play, which is probably why studies show that children who played with their fathers more showed stronger self-control in adolescence and adulthood. So, the next time your little ones are getting rowdy with each other or with Dad, give in to the chaos and join in on the fun! Here are all the benefits that come with roughhousing with your kids:
It encourages healthy emotional expression
We already know that children learn through play. It helps them learn about their world around them, and research shows that active, physical, and competitive play is linked to better regulation of emotions. Physical play creates fun and excitement, but children have to apply self-regulation when they get worked up. The home is a safe environment where children can practice their response to feeling frustrated and also learn how to control their strength. When parents play rough with their kids, they naturally practice these things, like drawing boundaries when things have gone too far in order to keep it safe for everyone, and children pick up on this. Although we don’t want our little ones to be aggressive to others, aggression can actually be a part of healthy development. We want our children to be able to apply aggression in a safe and moderated way when appropriate, such as competing in sports or sticking up for themselves if attacked.
It helps kids build confidence
When children roughhouse, they access their inner power and build resilience. They burn off energy, release aggression, take some tumbles, and get back up again. This type of risky play gives kids the opportunity to push their own boundaries and learn self-control in a secure setting with loving parents to supervise them. When you engage in rough play with your kids and let them win, it helps build their confidence but also teaches them a valuable lesson about handling an imbalance of power. They pick up on your self-control and are less likely to play too aggressively with their peers.
It teaches consent
At some point, rough play can get too rough. This type of play is only fun when all participants are willing, and the second someone is no longer enjoying it, it’s time to stop. Parents model consent by not only stopping the game when they pick up on nonverbal cues that someone is not having fun, but also by asking permission to play in the first place. Studies have shown that children who roughhouse with a parent are better able to control their emotions, less likely to have behavioral problems, and are more empathetic. This type of play can set the foundation for how little ones manage conflicts because it teaches them to control their strength and stop once things go too far.
It promotes physical activity
Physical activity is important for health, and children naturally love to move. Rough play is a fun way to improve physical fitness through concentration, coordination, and cardiovascular activity. In today’s digital age, it’s not uncommon for children to spend more time in sedentary activities like watching TV or playing video games. Roughhousing gets everyone up and moving, stimulating endorphins and oxytocin to improve mental health and strengthen the parent-child bond.
While roughhousing is a fun and healthy way to play with your little ones, just make sure to keep things safe. Don’t engage in rough play right before bed because kids need time to wind down to get ready to sleep, and roughhousing is a surefire way to make sure that your child is bouncing off the walls at bedtime. Always make sure that you’re not too rough with little arms and legs—remember, children’s joints are more susceptible to injury (nursemaid’s elbow is a common reason for a hospital visit)—and you also want to ensure that the environment is safe and free of hazards. You may consider putting down an extra large, padded mat or play cushion if your kids are huge fans of rough-and-tumble play on the floor.
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About the Author: Alice
Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.