Emotionally Connect with your Child through Physical Play - momgineer

Emotionally Connect with your Child through Physical Play

This is a re-post of an earlier post, but I thought it was worth sharing again.

We were fortunate enough to attend a workshop last week led by Larry Cohen (of Playful Parenting). When he released his book The Art of Roughhousing, he did a series of workshops to explore this fun topic. It is definitely worth a read! Some kids need to connect physically in order to connect emotionally. If your child is sensory-seeking, he may respond to some of these ideas. You may find you enjoy the games as much as your child does, and you will be sure to have lots of belly laughs and smiles. Sometimes a child that may seem defiant, just needs to feel like their voice is meaningful and is being heard. When a child is occasionally given a "powerful" role, they may become more cooperative at other times. Why not give it a try?

Some fun roughhousing games we have played in the past:

The wriggle game:
This is also called "You can't get away from me!" but I like the term wriggling. Basically you encircle your child with your arms (but don't hold them tightly) and say something like "I bet you can't wriggle out of here!" If it is their first time, make sure you don't make it too difficult to get out. It will help build up their confidence. As they get better at it, try moving all around with them as they are wriggling to make it more difficult for them to get out from your arms.

The push down game:
This game is fun from the toddler years on. For a toddler, squat down to their level and tell them to try to push you over. If you're squatting, it will probably not take much effort for them to throw you off balance. Fall back and elaborately groan about how they pushed you over, and then ask if they want to do it again. They will most likely get a big kick out of seeing an adult fall over for a change, instead of themselves. For older kids, kneel but keep your body tall so you are close to their height and tell them to push your shoulders, or hold up your hands like you are going to high-ten them and tell them to push your hands.

The bridge game:
This is best played with another adult around, though it can be done solo as well. Lie down on your back with your feet and the other person's feet touching sole to sole. Lift your legs up (while keeping your feet touching) to make an inverted V. Tell the child(ren) to run under the bridge without getting crushed (legs lowered). For older kids, you can open your legs to "catch" them in the bridge and dare them to escape. They will most likely delight in running and crawling under the bridge over and over.

Feats of strength:
It's a far cry from the Festivus feats of strength, but this is a lower-energy way to encourage body awareness and strength. If you've had a long day and need to sit on furniture instead of the floor, or you're nursing your little one and the older one needs attention, this can work for that.  Put your arms up like you are going to clap them, but spread them a little further apart. Ask if they can push your hands together. Resist. Repeat!

These never seem to get old with H&F. A few things to be mindful of:
  • Check in with your child periodically to make sure they are still having fun.
  • If your child tends to get riled up easily and has a hard time re-centering, take breaks every so often to make sure they don't feel out of control of themselves. One way we do this is by slow deep breathing and counting slowly backwards from 10.
  • Try to reserve time for roughhousing as a parent-child activity and you may spare yourself issues that arise from child-child roughhousing. If there is an outlet for this kind of energy, children will be less likely to unleash on their sibling or friend.
We played some other fun physical games at the workshop, including pillow fighting, which I'm sure will be detailed in the book. Do you have favorite roughhousing games you play with your kids?

The Art of Roughhousing

This is a physical extension of playful parenting. It takes conscious action to not immediately react in times of frustration with your child, especially if you are tired yourself. However, being goofy and playful is one of my best parenting tools, even as my children grow older.
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

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