Kids Benefit From Roughhousing Dads

Rough and tumble play is good for kids.

Dads at Play

Image(s) licensed by Ingram Publishing

I don’t consider myself an expert on many things but at the risk of tooting my own horn I have to say I am officially deserving of some noteworthy title when it comes to having fun. I believe it’s the dad in me. When I walk in the door, it’s a signal for my kids (both girls and boys) to climb, jump and generally use me as a jungle gym while my wife looks on with concern for everyone’s safety.

Dad is often the one who actively engages the children in the pseudo-wrestling activities coined by researchers as “rough and tumble play.” For years, those researchers have been praising the benefits of this type of play for children.

So what’s so great about rough and tumble play? First, it’s fun! And it teaches kids skills that will serve them into adulthood. While attempting to pin dad to the floor, a child can learn about reading body language and other social cues. They also begin to understand how strong they are and learn about acceptable levels of interaction and personal boundaries. Physical skills like coordination and controlling movement also develop. For me, it’s an opportunity to get close to my kids and show affection while teaching them these important skills.

Taking the lead

The biggest downside to rough and tumble play is that somebody may get hurt. But that’s where dad comes in. His job is to lead kids through that dance of social cues and values and show them how and when to control emotions and behaviours. A recent study showed that fathers need to take the dominant role in rough and tumble play by regulating the flow and setting rules to ensure kids don’t get aggressive.

Researchers and fathering experts have for years found that children with a positive male figure make more appropriate lifestyle choices and have better academic achievement. It only stands to reason that children engaging in positive rough and tumble play with dad is part of the equation.

Final thoughts

Dads have an opportunity and a responsibility to raise a child that contributes in a positive, meaningful way. We also have the job of showing society that fathers bring many unique elements to the parenting table. Engaging in rough and tumble play is a very natural way to show how dads are different.

So, go have fun. It’s one of the best things you can do for your child and you.


For information on father involvement, check out these websites:

Author: Jason Brock, B.A., R.E.C.E.

Jason Brock, B.A., R.E.C.E. is a very busy Program Coordinator at the Peterborough Family Resource Centre (PFRC), a father of four and grandparent of two.

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