Dads and Rough-and-Tumble Play

Research shows that children in all cultures engage in rough-and-tumble play —especially boys. Many believe rough-and-tumble play has a very specific role in the social development of young children. It enables children to play with others without physically hurting the other person, thereby developing a variety of important skills.

In rough-and-tumble play, children do not set out to hurt each other; that is not the intent — and usually not the result. The intent is to engage in play-fighting in which children reverse roles, with the good guy changing to the bad guy. This allows children to share powerful roles, while also experiencing being the victim. According to recent research, it’s the father’s favorite form of play. Males — teachers, volunteers and administrators — often are more accepting of children engaging in rough-and-tumble play than women. As a result, including more men in the early childhood program may have a positive effect.

Unfortunately, at Anne Sullivan School, there are no male teachers, who may be more comfortable with floor activities, movement, rough-and-tumble play, construction challenges, and messy and noisier activities. Interacting with young children, men tend to be more physical, stimulating, and playful. We invite any enthusiastic fathers or grandfathers to come and play, especially with the boys who thrive playing with blocks, woodworking, building forts, and playing competitive games and various sports activities. There are big blocks of time for outside play–40 to 45 minutes when father and grandfather volunteers can lead a game with the children.

When fathers (or other men in the child’s life) are involved in programs for young children, the children are more successful emotionally, socially, and cognitively. There are activities for every dad and granddad in our school. Just tell the teacher when you are coming to play!

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