Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Art of Roughhousing Book Review

Having grown up playing outdoors and enjoying lots of rough and tumble I think it’s good for children to enjoy physical fun and that we shouldn’t wrap our children up in cotton wool, discouraging them from having physical fun.  Little man is very boisterous, he has always been a very active little boy maybe even a tad wild and loves physical fun; with no encouragement or suggestion from mummy or daddy by himself he even started wrestling pillows on the floor when he was about 7 months old, rolling around like a mad man.  As little man loves physical fun and daddy in particular loves his rough and tumble play with him we were excited about the opportunity we were given to review a book all about good old-fashioned roughhousing.


We were sent a copy of The Art of Roughhousing : Good old-fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It by Lawrence Cohen (PH.D. Licensed Psychologist) and Anthony DeBenedet (M.D.).  As ‘health and safety’ is an issue that is heard often nowadays and children are discouraged from physical fun and rough and tumble play because of concerns of it being too dangerous and wild this book aims to highlight the benefits of physical fun and good old-fashioned horseplay and provided parents with fun physical roughhousing activities to do with their children.  With a majority of children’s play time being adult structured and organised so that children can be kept safe by not participating in rough and tumble play the authors of this book recommend that parents should play with their children and enjoy some rough and tumble play together which helps build a more playful, fun and physical relationship with children who are empowered and thrive from healthy physical contact and play.  "Roughhousing is interactive, so it builds close connections between children and parents, especially as we get down on the floor and join them in their world of exuberance and imagination. Most important, roughhousing is rowdy, but not dangerous."

Authors Cohen and DeBenedet claim that “Play – especially active physical play, like roughhousing – makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, loveable and likeable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful”.  To back up their claim they provide detailed information about the benefits of roughhousing for children.  The authors say that rough and tumble play helps –

Intelligence: It is said in this book that roughhousing helps stimulate a child’s intellectual development and builds foundations for academic success and intelligence.  When participating in physical play a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is released which helps stimulate neuron growth in the brain’s cortex and hippocampus.  These areas in the brain are vital to higher learning, memory and advanced behaviour such as language and logic.  Intelligence is also built through physical play as it activates other areas within the brain.  For example when a child and a parent are rough and tumbling together pathways for motor coordination and emotional attachment are activated which builds brain cell connections due to the coordinated activation happening within the brain.

Emotional Intelligence:  According to the authors roughhousing aids the development of emotional intelligence. Physical play uses non-verbal communication which teaches children about emotions and enables them to learn the ability to gauge what the other person feels and how they react as well as caring about how others feel.  Children also learn how to manage strong emotions through roughhousing as they are practising revving up and calming down.

Social skills:  According to his book children who roughhouse are alomost always more socially adept.  Roughhousing helps develop social and problem solving skills, including learning to see things through the eyes of another child and learning to take turns.

Ethics and morality:  Roughhousing helps children learn healthy moral behaviour, teaches self-control, fairness and empathy.  If the parent holds back whilst playing, children see that someone bigger and stronger can hold back and that having fun together is more important than winning and by the parent letting the child win the child can see that winning isn’t everything and is given a confidence boost.  Roughhousing also shows what can be achieved by cooperation, that their parent trusts them and the parent is also trustworthy and helps them learn to trust themselves.

Physical fitness: The physically demanding and challenging play that happens when playing rough and tumble benefit both child and parent.  Different activities have differing physical requirements and rough and tumble play helps improve physical strength, complex motor learning, concentration, coordination, body control, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness.

Joy:  One big benefit of rough and tumble play is that is provides fun and joy.

Just like children parents benefit from rough and tumble play and by participating they also build a strong bond with their child.

I like the fact that this book is a serious publication written by professionals who have roughhoused with their own children.  Not only do they write about the host of benefits for children who rough and tumble play but they also provide caution information about the mild peril connected to this physical fun and provide safety precaution suggestions.  I think this is reassuring for parents who are nervous about their children roughhousing and I think as long as you practise rough and tumble play with common sense in mind children will have lots of fun.

I love the fact that they highlight that roughhousing isn’t just for boys and mention the benefits for both boys and girls.  I also think this book would encourage mums to roughhouse too as I think commonly it would be considered that only dads roughhouse. 

As well as lots of interesting information about roughhousing and its benefits the book also provides specific roughhousing moves.  The book is filled with illustrated activities and easy to understand and follow instructions, I like the fact that the various activities are separated into different chapters according to the type of activity; Instant Roughhousing, Flight, Games, Contact, Imagination and Extreme Roughhousing.  The roughhousing activities have been created so that children can enjoy physical fun and the activities are inspired by gymnastics, martial arts, ballet, traditional sports and animal behaviour.  All of the activities have age recommendations and there are plenty of ideas within the book so that there are new activities to try as children get older.  As well as highlighting the recommend age, each activity’s difficulty and essential skill is also referred to.  I think it would be great for children to use the diagrams in the book to pick out their favourites to do or a new activity to try which would make children feel involved and important.


Maybe because I had a very active, physical childhood I personally am not too concerned with the activities for rough and tumble play that are suggested in the book but I could see how some parents may find some of the ideas a tad too dangerous and worry too much about their child getting hurt.  I believe children should be protected and people should use their common sense but children should also experience fun and freedom; watch them, be there if they hurt themselves or get scared but let them have fun and play….even join in and have fun playing with them!  I remember riding a mattress down the stairs as a child just like the ‘Futaleufu Mattress Rafting’ suggested in the book and we had lots of fun doing so but I would never do this with little man until he was older and for some parents this may be too risky for any aged child.  The ‘Human Cannonball’ is another idea that may be too much for some but as I saw on a clip on Russell Howard’s Good News there are some parents who are happy doing this.  As with most things in life, people will have differing opinions and I think there are plenty of ideas within the book so that there is something for everyone and if some of the suggestions seem too dangerous you don’t have to do it, stick to the ones you are comfortable with and you never know as your confidence in roughhousing grows you may feel brave enough to give the more risky suggestions a try.

I think it is great that by rough and tumble playing children can burn off excess energy and release aggression in a controlled way.   Rough and tumble is a great way for parents to interact with their children in a fun way.  As a bonus to the benefits of rough and tumble play you can have fun with your child/children without spending a penny!


I think this book is brilliant as does Lee.  I love the fact that it aims to inform parents of the benefits of roughhousing and I believe anything that encourages closeness, fun and laughter is great for children.  I wish more children played outside or participated in friendly rough and tumble play instead of retreating into virtual worlds to play and virtually rough and tumble there instead and I think this book will provide parents with the suggestions and confidence to bring children away from the virtual world for a while to enjoy some good old fashioned rough and tumble play instead. 



Even though a few of the suggestions are not new to us, for example little man loves ‘Steamroller’ which we have been doing with him for ages, there are plenty of other activities that we have enjoyed doing and there are lots we can’t wait to do with little man when he gets older.  I would highly recommend this book, I love the activities provided and have found the information about roughhousing and its benefits very enjoyable to read and very interesting.


This book can currently be purchased on Amazon for £5.29.


* Quirk Publishing kindly sent us this book to review for free, despite this I have written an honest review that contains my own words and opinions *

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