I and my partner in play research Rafe Kelley, founder and Executive Director of Evolve Move Play, got to present on the importance of roughhousing from both a physical and emotional health and development perspective at this year’s Ancestral Health Society Symposium in Seattle, WA.
It was such an honor to be able to present and be surrounded by great thinkers around evolutionary health and wellness like Stephan Guyenet, Katy Bowman, Robb Wolf, and Frank Forencich.
We got a great response from attendees who came to view our poster, chatting about the often overlooked health benefits of roughhousing, both for children and adults. Besides discussing our points on the poster, we had lots of great related questions about risk, differences in how boys and girls (and men and women) approach and engage with roughhousing, how to start roughhousing if you’re a little out of practice, and other ideas.
You can view our AHS 2017 EMP Poster here. We are hoping *fingers crossed* to develop this into a full paper in the near future, so stay tuned!
San Francisco photographer Melissa Kaseman knows that imaginative art can come in tiny packages. That much is evident in her latest photo series, “Preschool Pocket Treasures,” which depicts the small objects she finds stuffed in her son’s pockets each day when he comes home from preschool.
“The magic of childhood is so fleeting, and these objects I kept finding in Calder’s pockets represent a chapter of boyhood, his imagination, and the magic of finding a ‘treasure,’” Kaseman told The Huffington Post, adding, “I like the idea of the photographs being a taxonomy report of a child’s imagination, specifically Calder’s. I hope he carries the wonderment of discovery throughout his life.”
Ms. Kaseman has captured a fascinating phenomenon of children preschool age to want to create and keep collections of things they find fascinating. It is both a fascinating way to understand what they are interested in exploring – colors, shapes, textures, size, specific themes like shells or rocks or dinosaurs – and how that interest changes or shifts over the days, weeks, and months.
She is also taking a wonderful, respectful, and playful approach to her son’s pocket treasures by treating them with the same respect and fascination he did, capturing them and cataloging them in a way that showcases them and makes them fascinating to us the viewers.
“Preschool Pocket Treasures” applies an archival idea to capture a child’s growth and evolution.
Kaseman hopes people who look at the photos see “the magic of discovery in a child’s imagination.” She added, “A simple object can hold so much weight in one’s mind.”
In the meantime, take a new look at the things your child brings home from school, or how he has lined up all of his cars. Are they all the same size, color, side by side or in a row? This can provide some insight and wonder into your young child’s developing brain.
Preface to anyone who has children in a corporate-owned daycare that could be encompassed in the below description: I in no way mean to critique you or your child-rearing decisions, I am criticizing the system that has built up around these behemoth corporations that are more interested in making money rather than caring for kids.
The push for large corporate, academics-based daycare and preschools in the U.S. to monopolize the industry and childhood development practices has gone too far!
My daycare provider this month had to bump up her prices 150% due to new regulations passed by legislators that were pushed through by big daycare corporations; supported with the sole intention of driving smaller in-home daycares like my provider’s out of business.
This kind of “pay to play” legislation is not only unethical, this particular one is supporting a system of large, low-personalization, academics-driven style of daycare that is not only inappropriate for children but downright HARMFUL to their development. Eight-month-olds do not need to be studying the alphabet! They need to be playing blocks with their friends and learning colors and counting through unstructured play time, not forced circle time and flash cards!
It is better for children to have smaller groups of kids to play together, with regular, consistent caretakers that can provide personal touch and unstructured play time.
This kind of system is also a HUGE burden on working parents. This kind of price increase – $100’s of dollars in my daycare’s case – is unmanageable for so many working families, and the high prices of childcare means that it pushes hundreds of thousands of well-educated, highly motivated parents out of the workforce during their prime working years. In-home daycares are also more flexible on hours and more understanding if a parent is 5 minutes late with pick-up.
This is also incredibly anti-small business; my daycare provider is strongly considering retirement after this last batch of legislation and required price increases, not to mention potential loss of revenue due to parents pulling their kids out of her daycare because they can’t afford it. I can only imagine other daycare providers are struggling with the same dilemma.
I support paying higher prices for higher quality child care, but this price increase is purely due to new legislations, fees, and bureaucracy that can be absorbed by larger corporations but not smaller businesses. I support safety and regulations of childcare, but not to the point where businesses are required to feed children only cow or soy milk (yes, that is a rule in Washington State).
If the government is really interested in creating a strong, resilient, competitive workforce, AND/OR is really interested in supporting small businesses, this is NOT the way to do it!
As soon as I figure out which congress person to write to I will do it and share it here! If there is specific regulations you are aware of that are impacting costs or food options, or even play time, please comment and post them below, so when we write our emails, postcards, or angry YouTube video rants we’ll know exactly which regulations to call out as unjust.
In the meantime, please give your daycare provider a hug, no matter who they are, and let them know we care.
In some ways this seems like an overly obvious, unnecessary post. Of course parents play fight with their kids! Right? Yet I am surprised by how few MOMS play fight with their kids.
I do. And I love it! I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I do, but I do. Here are my top reasons why.
1. It teaches them body awareness – How hard do I have to push to make something happen? How strong am I before I get pushed over? How do I get myself back upright? How hard is too hard to hit? Also being aware of how strong they are now versus a month from now is important too as they grow and get bigger and stronger; I’ve known too many bigger little kids that don’t know their own strength.
2. It teaches them spatial awareness – How far away is that body I am playing with? Where are my legs and arms while I’m wrestling? Oops, now I’m upside down, how does that make me feel?
3. It makes them feel loved and given attention.
4. It’s fun! I’ll bet almost everyone at one time or another has played slug bug, tickle time, or wrestled with your sibling, or started a real fight with your sibling that by the end you two were both on the floor laughing.
5. They feel safe acting out being big and strong and knocking me down or punching me and knowing that I can take it.
6. Kids who play fight with their dads are being shown that men are big and strong. For somewhat feminist but mostly totally selfish reasons, I want them to know that women (i.e. ME!) can be big, strong, and tough too.
7. Along those same lines, grown-ups who play fight with kids are demonstrating that when people play or play fight, they are being respectful of each other’s boundaries, and if you don’t feel safe you can and should ask the other person to stop. If the other person doesn’t respect your boundaries then kids learn that’s not okay and they get time out or kids or grown-ups stop playing with them. This is a super-critical skill that is missing in so much rhetoric, both physical and verbal, in our society today.
8. As their mom, it is so fun to watch my kids get stronger, faster, more coordinated, and more creative in their physical play. They mix strategies, including saying silly things to catch me off guard, which is all part of the art of play.
9. Finally, I want to promote physical play of all kinds with kids and grown-ups alike. Whether that’s boxing, hiking, jump rope, tricycles, making forts, tree-climbing, or just going for an exploratory walk around the neighborhood, I support it.
I’m sure there are other reasons I’m forgetting, but those are my main ones.
My husband teaches natural movement classes, and before that parkour and martial arts. Slowly more women are joining the adult classes in all of those fields. But especially in the kids’ classes, the moms are just as likely to join their kids, but almost none participate given the opportunity. Why?! Some women (and men) don’t like physical contact activities. And that’s totally fine. But more often than not women are intimidated. I say no more fear! Get in there and push someone.
Why do you play fight with your kids? Or why don’t you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
UPDATE: I wrote a follow-up post about safe ways to roughhouse with your children that you can find here.
Fall is finally upon us here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m not going to deny it anymore. But even as the weather gets cooler, my family and I are still finding ways to get outside and play.
I have always loved playing outside, climbing on rocks, trees, hiking, and splashing in puddles, and really want to pass this love of nature and outdoor movement on to my kids. It is so great to see other parents encourage their kids, and other grown-ups, to discover and recover their biophilia and love of playing outdoors.
One of the best outdoor play advocates I have met in a long time is Katy Bowman, although for her, moving and exploring the outdoors is simply behaving like a normal human.
Katy is a biomechanist with a deservedly large following of movement practitioners using her Restorative Exercise program. Katy is a huge advocate of natural movement and getting outside as much as possible, and encourages it with her kids as well. Katy talks about their experience in their outdoor “nature” preschool on her blog and podcast, but the enriching environments she has set up for her kids at home is in a class by itself.
Katy graciously invited my family out to her house outside of a small town on the Olympic Peninsula earlier this summer.
When we pull up to her house, the front yard looks fairly typical for any house containing small children; a few toys are strewn around the yard, slightly hidden by the uncut grass. Her husband and children have just headed off down the road for a walk. She helps us unload our brood out of the car after the long drive and immediately invites my daughter to explore, with me in tow.
We step out of the house into the backyard, and it is perfect.
My three-year-old daughter’s eyes light up like she’s hit the motherlode.
The lawn is littered with toys – costumes, stuffed animals, balls, a Little Tyke’s scooter car. There is a big basket of LEGOs sitting on the porch waiting to be dumped over and played with.
There are also complex toys laid out intentionally by Katy and her husband Michael for her kids to play with. A tippy rope ladder strung between two trees with a foam mat underneath; ladders laid on the ground for balancing, a jungle gym, a circle swing, large wooden ramps placed strategically up to table tops. The cherry tree is also filled with cherries, for good measure.
The kids have gotten creative with some of their building materials, including taking a couple of blocks from the flower box and made a corral for their plastic farm animals. They have also left little illustrations stealthily added around inside the house: on the wooden bed frame, the balance ball in Katy’s office, and on a couple of door frames.
And that’s before we even meet the chickens or go down to the Dungeness River to throw rocks, wade, climb, and make structures in the sand.
It is obvious the kids have the run of the house, and its affect is wonderful.
Katy has created a practice based on her high level training in biomechanics and years of teaching experience centered on creating a healthy, mobile human being, and this practice is reflected in how she and Michael have set up their home environment. Every space is open for movement, jump, climb, and play. There are edges and imperfectly balanced steps and slight risks everywhere. The kids must learn to navigate their environment safely, and have a blast doing it.
Katy often talks about getting her kids outside and exposed to new, playful challenges. And yet, when I ask her about it, she almost baulks at the idea she is supporting a primarily “playful” environment. For her, this is simply survival, teaching her little humans how to be human. She is merely creating and supporting healthy behaviors, what kids and grownups should be doing all the time.
They let their children go slow, at their pace. Their kids learn by doing, by experiencing. As do we all, really. It’s true that, thanks to the visit, I now have more confidence in being able to ford a fast-moving stream carrying my toddler. And it wasn’t part of a survival training camp or an emergency. It was part of our Sunday family outing. It may sound small or frivolous or “not necessary,” but for the survival of our species, that skill is a big deal.
To me, this kind of activity is not just good for restoring our body and capability to move, it is also restorative to our psyches and filling that need to explore and play at our own pace and learn in a playful way.
Finally my family has to head home. We take the time to let our kids say good night to the chickens before we load back into our car, driving away with the sunset on our backs. After getting to see and play in Katy’s backyard, both the grown-ups and the kids in our family feel renewed, replenished, and ready to play and explore our own backyard and our home environment in a new way.
I highly recommend digging in to Katy’s materials. She has some great ideas and thoughts around leading a healthy, restorative, and in my mind playful movement practice, whether it’s in nature or just in your own backyard.
Kids are amazing explorers. Their drive for exploration and play can overpower their desires for sleep, food, and general grumpiness.
This past Monday we had a sitter sick day, and I was in charge of the kids. To get them out of the house we took a four hour round-trip hike down to the park near our house. This park is more like a nature preserve, with a trail that follows a quick drop down from street level into a canyon where a small creek that still supports a salmon run every year slowly meanders down to a mostly sandy beach and the Puget Sound, where local families dig their plastic shovels in the gravely soil and watch sail boats, freight ships, and the occasional harbor seal, bald eagle, or osprey fishing off the shore.
My daughter loved walking over the wooden bridges, stomping her feet to make the boom boom echo noise that only comes from wooden bridges. We went at her pace, taking as much time as she wanted at each spot, stopping at every bridge to look over its edge into the babbling brook or stream below, stopping to touch a cool tree, as well as the fire trucks that happened to be at the park. A few times I got bored and suggested we move on, and if she said yes we went and if not we stayed. Even towards the end of our adventures, although she was simultaneously starting to complain about being hungry and thirsty, she was the one demanding that we go down to the beach to at least sit on a log for awhile and touch the sand. She also wanted to go swimming in the creek and the sound, but we skipped those activities mostly because I did not feel like adding “wet” to the description of things I had to lug back out of the canyon, and she didn’t protest too much.
She balanced, climbed, slid, see-sawed, and ran up and down hills, falling and tripping a couple of times but brushing herself off each time and only needing one kiss to make a finger better before moving on to the next activity. She got to try an apple that fell off the park’s apple orchard, picked up leaves, and analyzed different rocks strewn on the beach. She walked more than half of the time down and around the canyon and park, and returning walked all the way down the hill from the beach cliff and towards the lower parking lot. She had an amazing time and had lots of things to share with her dad when we got back from our adventure.
But my son, my son enjoyed the day on an entirely different level. My son was so happy during our walk through the woods he looked like an animal released from its cage and realizing it has been returned into its home forest.
He would just lean over, reaching down over the edge of his stroller trying to touch the ground as it whizzed by him, feeling any dirt kick up off the path with those pudgy little hands that an instant later were reaching up up up into the sky, trying to touch the leaves high above and sunlight sparkling through them.
He was always sitting literally at the edge of his seat, at times riding his stroller like a chariot, bracing his feet against the step and grabbing the guard rail, standing straight up and wiggling his body to urge his rickety chariot to go faster. He would lean back into his chair, arching his back to look up at the tops of the trees, and look back at me as if to say “Mom, this is so cool!”
He wanted to taste and experience everything, and although he tired much more quickly than his sister he still grabbed for various sticks, rocks, and chunks of wood to taste as we sat on the beach. He would understand when I told him no and take the rock out of his mouth, but would then start searching for another one, thinking, “maybe this cracker shaped piece of wood is okay.” When he found an apple on the ground in the orchard, He was so proud and protective of it he struggled with wanting to show me but wanting to keep it for himself. He actually tried to pick up all the apples while holding on to his tiny little apple, but I tossed the rotten ones further into the field and tried to get him to focus on his precious little apple that he had already started chewing. He spent a long time nibbling at it, getting it about half eaten, and when I finally snuck it away from him to bite away a wormy spot I found that in fact it was pretty good, better than the one I picked off the tree for my daughter.
He had exhausted himself by the time we walked through the woods again and looked dazedly up into the sparking tree canopy before he drifted to sleep about half way up the canyon trail. My daughter rested in her seat, chatting here and there but was overall surprisingly quiet for a two year old.
After I made us a very late lunch and we sat around the kitchen table hungrily munching our pasta and sausages, I was still, and am still, blown away by just how long the kids both wanted to be out there in the park, playing, exploring, and just how happy they were to be out experiencing nature. I try to let the kids explore on their own at their own pace, but this day took that experience to a whole new level for me, one I will try to remember as we continue to explore and learn about our world together.
I came across an interesting commentary from the Telegraph in the UK anecdotally supporting a new study that claims it only costs 6 pounds (about $10) to keep kids entertained.
A study by child development experts has concluded that the average family forks out £10,000 on toys and gadgets before their offspring turns 18. That’s a potential £20,000 on my two girls – cue a Munchian scream of Lebensangst.
Psychologists say that despite this casual largesse, youngsters are better off with colouring pencils and embroidery threads than computer consoles. While it might be hard to convince a surly 13 year-old that modelling clay and beads are more fun than a Wii, I couldn’t agree more. Are beads as thrilling as shooting baddies or crashing aeroplanes? Hardly, but it’s all about the social interaction, stupid.
It’s a rare and lovely feeling to be vindicated as a parent, so forgive me if I bask. You see, I am usually regarded (especially by my husband) as a bit of a skinflint who is too tight to buy the big one a Nintendo DS and the wee one, well, pretty much anything.
If my youngest asks for an ice lolly, we make them with apple juice. If they’re bored, I give them each a tray and send them outdoors to make a garden.
To the casual observer, this makes me a sickeningly virtuous hands-on mother. But it is merely the happy by-product of the fact that I am mean-fisted when it comes to frivolous expenditure. It goes against my grain to throw money at the children just to keep them amused and out of my hair. It feels wrong, and, worse, it feels lazy.
The truth that all parents know, deep down, is that what kids really crave is attention, not stuff. Stuff is a pretty good, if pricey opiate, but it never quite satiates, hence the ongoing clamour for more of it, except faster and louder to excite pleasure centres inured by computer-generated over-stimulation.
Lots of parents have the old joke that at Christmas their kids spend more time playing with the box a toy came in than the toy itself. Now research is finding this to be more true than we realized.
It’s nice to hear that even in an age when children of younger generations appear to use advanced devices and technology as if it were second nature, nothing beats some old fashioned string and beads, or sticks and mud, for a good time. It can take a little bit more creativity on the parent’s end, but that can be a good thing, AND it also encourages more creativity and problem-solving in the child.
My personal favorites were pieces of wood and nails, and just hammering them together into odd art shapes, or just nailing them onto a tree. What were your favorite tools and environments for play when you were a kid? Let me know in the comments below.
In recent years, child development experts, parents, and scientists have been sounding an increasingly urgent alarm about the decreasing amount of time that children – and adults, for that matter – spend playing. A combination of social forces, from a No Child Left Behind focus on test scores to the push for children to get ahead with programmed extracurricular activities, leaves less time for the roughhousing, fantasizing, and pretend worlds advocates say are crucial for development.
Meanwhile, technology and a wide-scale change in toys have shifted what happens when children do engage in leisure activity, in a way many experts say undermines long-term emotional and intellectual abilities. An 8-year-old today, for instance, is more likely to be playing with a toy that has a computer chip, or attending a tightly supervised soccer practice, than making up an imaginary game with friends in the backyard or street.
But play is making a comeback. Bolstered by a growing body of scientific research detailing the cognitive benefits of different types of play, parents such as Taylor are pressuring school administrations to bring back recess and are fighting against a trend to move standardized testing and increased academic instruction to kindergarten.
Great article from The Atlantic about how squeezing recess and playtime out of education is a really bad idea:
Play is important for the emotional, social, cognitive, and physical development of children. In addition to being critical for general health and a preventative against overweight, play develops life skills for children and communication skills among peers and family members.
Children living in poverty experience these barriers and more, according to a recent clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Underprivileged children often have less access to recess and school-based creative arts, music, and physical education programs. Additionally, the socioeconomic stressors on poor families often conspire against parents having the time, energy, or skills to engage in play with their children.
Poor children’s access to outdoor play spaces may be compromised by the safety of their neighborhoods and the decrease in parks and open spaces in urban areas. Children who are unable to play outside tend to spend more time on screen-based activities such as watching TV or playing video games. Excessive screen time takes a huge toll on mental and physical health and academic achievement
Many urban schools have replaced recess and purely recreational after-school activities with academic enrichment activities to help close the academic achievement gaps between lower-income children and their more privileged peers. While improved academics is an important goal, the report emphasizes that the developmental role of play should not be forgotten and the benefits of play should not be traded off in favor of academics.
According to the report, play’s benefits extend to psychological well-being. Play provides an opportunity for a student to shine in areas that are not strictly academic and thus contributes to the child’s personal sense of pride and belonging in her school environment. This has the potential to discourage truancy and encourage children to remain in school to complete their education
Twenty-eight percent of schools with children in the highest poverty levels have no recess at all. This impacts a population of children who already have limited opportunities for creative experiences and social play, especially since research that has shown that physical education periods and recess enhance a child’s readiness for academic pursuits during the school day. They suggest that the elimination of these pace-changing opportunities may in fact be counterproductive for academic success.
A lot of parents freak out about how to provide enriching environments for their children and help them grow, from music lessons to early reading to math flash cards.
In one of those “well duh” books, two neuroscientists, Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang remind us it doesn’t take all that much…
Babies may look helpless, but as soon as they come into the world, they’re able to do a number of important things. They can recognize faces and moving objects. They’re attracted to language. And from very early on, they can differentiate their mother from other humans.
“They really come equipped to learn about the world in a way that wasn’t appreciated until recently,” says neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt. “It took scientists a long time to realize that their brains are doing some very complicated things.”
Aamodt and fellow neuroscientist Sam Wang explain how the human brain develops from infancy to adolescence in their new book, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain. The two researchers also offer tips for parents to help their children eat their spinach, learn their ABCs and navigate elementary school.
They talk with Terry Gross about complicated concepts like self control, abstract thought, and things that are even hard for some grown-ups, and how to create an environment that makes kids want to practice these things.