Calm down. Not in the house. Our couch is for sitting. These are the sentiments that are very often coming out of my mouth directed toward my three children. Living in a small house is one reason why I encourage quiet indoor games, and the fact that the vast majority of our furniture is of the Swedish build-it-yourself variety, thus not the sturdiest in the land. Truly, though, I know that I am simply more comfortable when my children are not being wild...as children are wont to do.
Read more 5 Minutes for Books at Kirkus about holidays from hell.
I've never been the type of parent to toss my young child up in the air, or to get down on the floor and wrestle with the crew. My comfort zone looks more like snuggles on the couch while reading together, or gathered around the kitchen counter mixing up a batch of muffins. When I first saw the title The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It, I halted in my online browsing tracks. Maybe I could venture beyond my comfort zone, just a little?
Right from the start, authors Anthony DeBenedet and Lawrence Cohen opt for heavy-hitting assertions in this "Bold Claim" that serves as the backbone for the book: "Play—especially active physical play, like roughhousing—makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful." You know that saying go big or go home? Yes, they went big, all right.
The authors come at the subject as fathers and professionals. DeBenedet, a doctor, began to search for rough-and-tumble activities that he could engage in with his child, and though he didn't come across any solid compilation, he did come in contact with psychologist Cohen and asked him to work on this project. The Art of Roughhousing is the result of their joint efforts.
Mixing encouragement, real-life stories, tidbits of research and a collection of descriptions and illustrations of actual "roughhousing" activities makes this an interesting guidebook of sorts for parents interested in engaging their children in more physical types of play. Back to that "Bold Claim": not only do the authors make connections between these types of play and children's overall development, but they also argue that it is natural and essential for children—like all young in the animal kingdom—to engage in roughhousing play. Sure, it's fairly obvious to see the physical benefits of keeping one's body strong and fit, but I hadn't made the connection of the emotional side effects, such as the process of revving up and calming down that is involved in physically interactive play that can increase a child's capacity to manage one's own emotions.
Much of Roughhousing spoke to me as an early childhood educator and mom, yet I still find myself struggling with my personal boundaries and comfort levels. As a parent of a child with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, I can certainly see some of their claims come to life with my own son's need for roughhousing; the framework of the book assists in not only helping to more clearly understand why it would be beneficial (to us all!) to incorporate more of this play into our own experiences, but also how to do it. Over six chapters, roughhousing games are introduced through descriptive text and/or illustrated figures. These activities range from the fairly simple to some complex "extreme" moves that are perhaps best worked up to.
Parents may find themselves nodding their heads in agreement or shaking them out of discomfort, but it's certain that The Art of Roughhousing will get readers thinking, and maybe just maybe, tossing their kids into the air for the fun of it.When she's not reviewing books on 5 Minutes for Books, Dawn Mooney (and her online alter ego, morninglight mama) can be found blogging at my thoughts exactly, pondering parenthood on her local Patch, and being a twit @mteblogmama.