The other day, I engaged my toddler in roughhousing and didn’t even realize it–twice.
When I think of roughhousing, I think of wrestling and tickling, which are two things I shy away from. But after reading the definition of roughhousing inIn the Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It, Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D. and Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D, I realized I do milder versions of it all the time. My toddler’s favorite is I’m Gonna Get You. He outlasted both his mom and the dog, first chasing the dog around the car, then being chased by the dog, then being chased by mom, and finally just running by himself. He collapses in giggles when he gets caught. A close second would be This Little Piggy, and when the last little piggy cries wee-wee-wee all the way home to tickle his belly, he lifts up his other foot. Again and again.
There are countless ways to roughhouse as long there are loving limits for all involved. And as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, many of these rules come naturally to men who roughhoused as children. In the Art of Roughhousing, DeBenedet and Cohen show how all species go easy on the little ones’ mistakes during play. “In good roughhousing, parents respond to rule-breaking or excess aggression, but they do not penalize it.” (14) Some other rules to consider might be no tickle torture, no punching/kicking, pause to catch breath, there should always be a way to get out, and stop and give hugs if there is crying. It may take a little practice to find a good balance between roughness and protection, which will be different for each child.
Here are 35 easy ways to roughhouse with your kids that you probably know already. But don’t forget to switch roles and give the child a chance to be in control.
- Tickling. Caution: Never tickle a child who cannot get away. Tickling is different for everyone, and laughing is an automatic response, so laughing does not guarantee the child is having fun.
- Chase. Chasing the child around something like a table or swingset is the most fun, making it easy to use strategy and change directions.
- I’m Gonna Get You. Many times combined with tickling or trapping, it’s really the suspense that is the most fun, and kids will actually let you catch them at some point, collapsing in laughter. Tag, for older kids, ending with a bear hug instead of a tap.
- Monsters/Zombies. Closely related to Chase and I’m Gonna Get You, the idea of a parent being a little scary, combined with suspense makes this one a good stress reliever.
- Stuck. The adult traps the child between their legs or a bear hug, and the child has to find a way to work it’s way out of the trap. The difficulty of the trap must vary with the temperament of the child.
- Airplane. A classic. The adult lies with back on the floor, with the child standing at her feet. Raise the adult’s feet to the child’s stomach/chest, grab the child’s hands, and slowly raise child to rest on the adult’s feet directly above the adult. Swerve and swoop and fly!
- Extreme catch. Done best on a soft surface, every time a person catches the balloon or ball, the person must dive for it.
- Baby rocket. Sometimes done as a more risky throw/catch move, baby rocket involves launching an older baby or toddler up above the adult’s head and coming down again rapidly, giving baby the feeling of weightlessness and falling. Make sure “baby” has very good head control.
- Horsie. Or other knee games. Example: Slow and gentle knee bouncing–“This is the way the ladies ride, ladies ride, ladies ride. This is the way the ladies right, early in the morning.” Quick bouncing–“This is the way the gentlemen ride…” Rough and nearly falling off bouncing–“This is the way the cowboys ride…”
- Piggyback rides. Run/bounce around with the child on your back.
- Horseback rides. Hard on the knees, but the adult crawls around on all fours with child riding on the back like a rider.
- Sack of potatoes. Instead of carrying the child on your hip, drape him over your shoulder. When used with imagination, it’s also good for diffusing tension when a child won’t go with an adult.
- Toss into bed. Used with toddlers and young children, carry the child in a basket hold and drop or toss gently onto a soft bed with pillows.
- Timber. On a large bed, have child stand in the middle in front of pillows. Chop the tree down at the ankles with your hand, yelling, “Timber!” and let the child make herself fall flat onto the pillows.
- Upsie-daisy. Holding the child facing you in your lap, let him tip backward over your knees to the point he feels like he is falling, but have your hands secure behind his back, then quickly rock him up again, saying upsie-daisy.
- Flipover. Taking Upsie-daisy a step further for older kids, stand facing the child, holding the child’s hands in yours. Lift on the child’s hands as she walks up your legs to the point that she flips upside-down and over. The first time, the child may need help when upside-down to start to flip over.
- This little piggy.
- Cops and robbers. Or shooting darts or rubber bands at targets, if you have something against good guy/bad guy shooting play.
- Balloon volleyball. No net required.
- Leaf pile jumping.
- Two-player baseball. Play pants and sliding into home plate encouraged!
- Tackle football. Every time we have played this, I was a little reluctant, but by the end, we were all out of breath and giggling.
- Water toss. Toss swimmers from a basket hold into the water next to you, or launch older kids off your hands laced together.
- Lumpy chair. When the child is sitting or lying on a chair, couch or bed, the adult can sit gently on him and joke that it’s not a very comfortable, lumpy place to sit.
- Spinning. With child standing facing you, put your hands under her arms and lock hands behind her back, lift and spin around. Make sure not to just grab the child’s hands, because you could dislocate her shoulders.
- Chicka-chicka spider. Hold your hand over the child, slowly contracting your fingers like spider legs, slowly saying chicka-chicka, slowly bring your hand down to the child’s belly, speeding up the noise and motion until the spider is tickling the child.
- Slow motion wrestling. Especially great for more sensitive kids.
- Trampoline play. But the adult needs to join in!!
- Gymnastics. Somersaults for the younger crowd, cartwheels and assisted flips with the older ones.
- Hill rolling.
- Underdogs. Swing your child so high you can walk under the swing then let go.
- High jump. Not the track and field event, let the child jump off of high things, holding on to your hand.
- Num num. Otherwise known as I Could Just Eat You Up. Popular with toddlers, pretend to nibble on the child in different spots (usually ticklish spots).
- Cart zoom. When in a safe spot without cars, give your toddler or preschooler in a cart or stroller a shove, making her feel like she will roll away, without actually letting it do so.
And have fun!!