behavior · children · education · emotion · health · learning · mental health · play

How to Play-Fight with your Kids

After posting a blog about why I choose to play fight with my kids, I got a great response from parents and non-parents alike. What surprised me however was how many people – moms, uncles/aunts, non-kid affiliated adults – reached out to me and asked, “How do I even get started?”

It turns out a lot of people never play-fought as a kids…
They were told to never hit, never push, never poke.
Or they just never had a good example from their parents or older siblings or relatives.

Or as parents now, they have played with older kids but when they try to do the same thing with their little one she just cries and runs away.

That makes me so sad. There are so many benefits to play-fighting as a kid, and as a grown-up. Both my husband and I are huge advocates of physical play, including roughhousing. Play-fighting doesn’t have to be rough and tumble all the time either; there are some great games that involve the same elements as physical play but are more gentler on the body than traditional wrestling or punching games (pretending to be movable mannequins is one of my favorites).

Based on my research of studying physical play behaviors, and my own experience with my kids, not to mention observing my husband coach and facilitate grown-ups on how to play for the past 10+ years, here is what I’ve found to be good tips to get started:

Let the kids lead: Young animals of all species, including kids, are naturally the best players in the entire animal kingdom. It is how they learn about their world. So let them lead. You can come up with the game, but often times the kids already have a game in mind. Or, give them a gentle poke or push and see how they respond. Sometimes they might not be in the mood, but sometimes they will take your cue and run with it.
Anecdotally, I’ve noticed often girls will be done rough-playing sooner than boys or need more breaks, whereas little boys will often go and go until they start to cry, so don’t be surprised if either happens.

Match their strength…: When we see big dogs and little dogs play together, often the big dog will handicap themselves; they won’t push as hard, or they’ll get down on the ground so the little dog can actually reach them. Similarly, match your play partner’s strength. Push only has hard as they push, or hit only as hard as they hit.

…But show off yours too: Of course you can and should try doing lifts, carries, spins, gentle knock downs, and other things that require you to have more strength. That’s part of the fun of playing with someone bigger than you!

Let them win (sometimes): Similar to the dog play example above, if you want the game to keep going then make sure they’re having fun, which means letting them get a few punches in on you or knocking you down. (If you aren’t comfortable yet with falling down, think of this as a great way to practice slowly falling down in a safe way.) But that also means you get to win sometimes too; don’t be a punching bag, but it’s all about taking turns so you are both having fun.

Communicate: Check-in, see how they are doing. Ask if they want to switch up the game, or if you’re ready to switch it up or take a break, tell them. Which leads to…

Teach them no
: The whole joy of play-fighting is the give and the take (have I said this enough times yet?). When it’s not fun anymore, both you AND your child get to say no, stop, time out, or I’m done. At any time. And, as the grown-up, you also need to be able to read your play-partner’s cues and tell when they’re not having a good time, even if they’re not specifically saying no.

Tickling is a great example. A lot of people see ticking as “harmless fun” and it’s tricky when a little kid is laughing and saying no at the same time, but it can be quite scary for a kid (or a grown-up) if they mean no and it isn’t respected. But, it’s also a great way to build trust with your play partner, whether they are a kid or a grown-up. Now, I HATE being tickled! HATE it! No tickles ever, thank you! Ever since I was little. My mom has stories of her trying to tickle me as a tiny baby, and even so much as putting her fingers out to say “coochie coochie coo” and I would just freak out! And she listened. So no tickles. As a grown-up I have not always had partners that understood that tickling is not fun for me, or when to stop tickling (as in immediately). But thanks to my mom I knew that I could choose to say no and that needed to be respected.

The same goes for tickling your kid; if they say stop, even if they’re laughing, stop. If they want more, they will ask for it (kids are good at that sort of thing).
And this can be expanded to all kinds of physical play; we need to learn how to listen to our bodies and our limits. If we get scared or frustrated, we need to learn to take a step back and regroup, and that we’re safe to do so. Physical play with a safe person like your parents is a great place to practice that.

Have fun!: In the end, that’s what this is all about. Sometimes you’re not in the mood to wrestle, and sometimes you are, or maybe you’ve got knee pain and can’t get on the ground, so just go with what feels right in the moment. Make up stories (“we’re bears, rawr!”), give yourself challenges (you can’t move from one spot; you can only use one arm), and just see what happens.

There are lots of different fun games you can try out with your kids and prompt you both to play more. Here is a great example of kid-led play fighting:

I’d love to hear some of the games you have come up with with your little play partners, so share them in the comments below.


architecture · community · creativity · culture · design · Uncategorized

Gamification of exercise in the real world using phone apps

I love this idea of essentially creating exercise Easter eggs for people around the city. It makes people think of their surroundings in totally new, possibly more sporty ways.

The UK government is backing a new fitness initiative that includes putting calorie-counting labels on staircases so people can keep track of how many calories they burn while taking the stairs.

The project, which was developed by StepJockey, includes an app and a website to help people count the calories burned when taking the stairs. The project is backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, the Department of Health, and NHS London.

The initiative was inspired by food labels that inform people of the calories they are consuming. According to their website, the initiative is “about the other side of the equation,” which entails labeling the physical world to promote fitness and weight loss.

People can “rate” unlabeled staircases by sending enough information for StepJockey to calculate how many calories would be burned when using it. The details can then be printed on a poster that they can put up near the staircases.

I love the concept of interacting with the real world and have crowd sourced information. Plus it’s fun to see spots pop up and know you’re part of the "in crowd," plus some friendly peer pressure to get active.

behavior · community · health · mental health

Pickleball, Anyone? Senior Athletes Play New Games And Old : NPR

Hazel Trexler-Campbell throws spray-painted horseshoes during the Senior Games in Cleveland on July 23. (Benjamin Morris for NPR)

Health and fitness is often focused on the young, to the point that as athletes age they often get discouraged that they can’t compete in their old sports anymore. Well fear not, young-at-heart! There is… the Senior Games, with different age brackets.

A lot of what you’d see at the National Senior Games looks familiar if you’ve ever watched the Summer Olympics: there’s track and field, basketball and swimming. At the Summer Olympics, however, you will not hear voices in the crowd cheering “Go, Grandma!”Everyone at these Games is over 50 and they play some sports that will likely never appear at the Olympics.

more via Pickleball, Anyone? Senior Athletes Play New Games And Old : NPR.

I JUST discovered the Senior Games this morning, and I’m already excited to sign up when I’m old enough to qualify – that’s only 20 years away, so I better start practicing. 🙂

But for those who already qualify, this is a great sporting event that should be shared out with more seniors. People like my dad, a lifelong athlete who tries to keep up with the young folks perhaps a bit too much, would make a killing in some of these events.

anthropology · community · creativity · design · happiness · play · youtube

Freak Bikes of Portland

I’ve been watching episodes of American Hipster Presents – a fun video series about different entrepreneurs/artists/etc. around the U.S. (side tangent, how crazy is it that we live in an economy where I can write entrepreneurs/artists/etc. and have that not be weird? Hello Etsy!) – I came across the freak bike builders of Portland. It’s a group of guys and gals around Portland that build their own bikes and then pedal around town in bike gangs, playing games, hanging out with friends, and being overall pretty silly.

To me this is a great showcase of grown-ups making playful spaces and space for play in their lives.

The main interviewee says it best [paraphrasing]: “Kids get to play on bikes, why shouldn’t grown-ups?”

It also makes me kind of want to move to Portland.

creativity · play · youtube

Unique Monday commute

If you’re looking for a way to mix up your commute, this might just be the ticket. From Inhabitat:

A video has been posted on YouTube of a Russian man riding what appears to be a fully working bicycle… apart from the fact it could probably fit in the rider’s pocket. It’s a good thing he’s wearing a helmet, as he doesn’t look particularly stable – the man’s feet appear to be five times bigger than the pedals!

I’ve actually seen a couple of unicycle commuters, but never a mini-bike. During the first gas price increase of recent years a couple of high school girls tried riding their horses to school, but the school wasn’t set up to stable the horses during school hours (lame!). What other fun ways have you seen people try to get to work or school?
behavior · children · design · learning · play · Social · technology

Download an Exercise Apps for Healthy Kids

The winners are in, and now you can reap the benefits!

The Apps for Healthy Kids competition is a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation. Apps for Healthy Kids challenges software developers, game designers, students, and other innovators to develop fun and engaging software tools and games that drive children, especially “tweens” (ages 9-12) – directly or through their parents – to eat better and be more physically active.

via Apps for Healthy Kids.


Women’s cultural role in physical exursion

A woman tried to invade a sumo ring in Japan today, which if she had succeeded according to custom would have made the ring unclean. In the article it says Japanese women were also once not allowed to climb mountains or enter mines. Maybe it’s just because I had just read this blog about the Masai people (where women really get the short end of the stick), but it just makes me sad how women are considered unclean, tainted, not as good as men, in so many cultures, and how that is reflected in what chores are traditionally assigned to them in different cultures.
Most women were banned across the board from sports until recently, but it was expected of them to do back breaking labor in the fields, or with livestock, or simply building shelter for their families. They have to do all the hard, boring stuff, but men get to have all the fun activities. It is still an issue in some places to allow women to join the country’s military (see my earlier post).
Yes, traditionally men go out and hunt for women and children. They go to war. They put their lives on the line for their families. But that shouldn’t make women automatically second-class citizens, especially in a culture where food is provided primarily by agriculture and/or livestock (something both genders can do equally well), and war is no longer a common problem.
For the Masai this is not the case. Even though they are technically pastoralists, the men still go on cattle raids regularly and are gone from home a lot risking their lives. But in contrast, even though the Japanese (and the U.S.) have been in major wars in the past 60 years, they’ve moved beyond their traditional gender roles in so many other ways one would think they’d be able to move past restriction of women in certain arenas or activities as well, and especially using the “cleanliness” of a person’s gender as the main criteria.
At the same time, I believe in upholding and preserving traditions and customs. It’s also true Japan had very strict gender roles until much more recently that the U.S. or U.K., and really in the end the act of excluding women from the Sumo wrestling ring isn’t a huge deal. It’s just the overarching trend of looking at women as second-rate when it comes to physical abilities or activities that irks me.