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The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It

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Everywhere you look, physical play--what some might call "roughhousing"--is being marginalized. Gym classes are getting shorter. Recess periods are being eliminated. Some new schools don't even have playgrounds. Is it any wonder children retreat to "virtual horseplay" via video games? But Drs. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen are here to shake things up--literally Everywhere you look, physical play--what some might call "roughhousing"--is being marginalized. Gym classes are getting shorter. Recess periods are being eliminated. Some new schools don't even have playgrounds. Is it any wonder children retreat to "virtual horseplay" via video games? But Drs. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen are here to shake things up--literally! With The Art of Roughhousing, they show how rough-and-tumble play can nurture close connections, solve behavior problems, boost confidence, and more. Drawing inspiration from gymnastics, martial arts, ballet, traditional sports, and even animal behavior, the authors present dozens of illustrated activities for children and parents to enjoy together--everything from the "Sumo Dead Lift" to the "Rogue Dumbo." These delightful games are fun, free, and contain many surprising health benefits for parents. So put down those electronic games and get ready to rumble!


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Everywhere you look, physical play--what some might call "roughhousing"--is being marginalized. Gym classes are getting shorter. Recess periods are being eliminated. Some new schools don't even have playgrounds. Is it any wonder children retreat to "virtual horseplay" via video games? But Drs. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen are here to shake things up--literally Everywhere you look, physical play--what some might call "roughhousing"--is being marginalized. Gym classes are getting shorter. Recess periods are being eliminated. Some new schools don't even have playgrounds. Is it any wonder children retreat to "virtual horseplay" via video games? But Drs. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen are here to shake things up--literally! With The Art of Roughhousing, they show how rough-and-tumble play can nurture close connections, solve behavior problems, boost confidence, and more. Drawing inspiration from gymnastics, martial arts, ballet, traditional sports, and even animal behavior, the authors present dozens of illustrated activities for children and parents to enjoy together--everything from the "Sumo Dead Lift" to the "Rogue Dumbo." These delightful games are fun, free, and contain many surprising health benefits for parents. So put down those electronic games and get ready to rumble!

30 review for The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It

  1. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    I loved this book! I got it on kindle, then just ordered the hard copy to make my husband read it. I'm going to be giving it out as gifts like mad. This book is challenging me to stop fretting about the lack of recess in schools and start DOING something about all of our down time at home. Instead of starting up another quiet craft project, we're playing tag inside and out and giggling a lot more! It also emphasizes WHY play and physical touch are so important to children and families, so if you I loved this book! I got it on kindle, then just ordered the hard copy to make my husband read it. I'm going to be giving it out as gifts like mad. This book is challenging me to stop fretting about the lack of recess in schools and start DOING something about all of our down time at home. Instead of starting up another quiet craft project, we're playing tag inside and out and giggling a lot more! It also emphasizes WHY play and physical touch are so important to children and families, so if you get the stink-eye from someone for wrestling with a kid, you have plenty of info to spout off! It also discusses why letting your kids win is not only ok, it is GOOD; why rules are made to be broken (during safe playtimes, so they'll be better followed when necessary); why tickling past the point of fun is so mean, etc. It is a very fast read, a great book to have on hand as a reference for ideas (play in small spaces, etc), and is going on my must-read list for parents - from infants to teenagers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joseph R.

    Modern life is rather sedentary. Kids are more likely to sit in front of big screens or down with little screens for unhealthy lengths of time. They spend their free time typing or swiping or just watching. This is one way for kids to play, but is it the best way? Drs. Anthony DeBenedet and Lawrence Cohen present the case for a more dynamic and physically interactive way of playing in The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It. Their claim is "Play--especiall Modern life is rather sedentary. Kids are more likely to sit in front of big screens or down with little screens for unhealthy lengths of time. They spend their free time typing or swiping or just watching. This is one way for kids to play, but is it the best way? Drs. Anthony DeBenedet and Lawrence Cohen present the case for a more dynamic and physically interactive way of playing in The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It. Their claim is "Play--especially active physical play, like roughhousing--makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likeable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful." [p. 13] They discuss each benefit in their first chapter, supporting their thesis in a credible way. Most of the book is given over to suggestions of ways to roughhouse with children. The chapters are divided into various styles of play, including flight, games, and contact. Each chapter has six to ten possible activities. For example, the flight chapter includes the human cannonball (launching the child onto a mattress), the sleeping bat (hanging upside down), and the Flying Fox (acting as a human zip line). Basic skills are reviewed, ages are recommended, and safety tips provided. The chapters are quite entertaining to read and fun to experiment with (if you have access to kids!). The book puts forth a convincing argument for roughhousing and provides great examples of how to roughhouse safely and joyfully. SAMPLE QUOTE--on the problems of violence and sexual aggressiveness in school: ...when out-of-control violence--or out-of-control affection--is the problem, elimination of all physical contact is not the solution. The solution is more physical contact, as long as it's positive and mutually enjoyable. Healthy touch is also the antidote to the media's constant emphasis on sex and aggression as the dominant forms of physical contact. Roughhousing sends an alternate message: There are countless ways to be physically close and connected. The world of healthy touch is about friendship, camaraderie, nurturing, and fun--not sex or violence. [p. 100]

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    This is a very charming book. I agree that it's good for kids to roughhouse with their parents. Teaches them that it's okay to play around, but not to rough, and they won't break because of it. It also gets some aggression out and draws the parent/child relationship closer. My brother, sister and I roughhoused with our parents growing up. My brother rough houses with his kids. And they LOVE it! My 6 year old nephew calls it "bonding time". Every day he looks forward to playing around with his da This is a very charming book. I agree that it's good for kids to roughhouse with their parents. Teaches them that it's okay to play around, but not to rough, and they won't break because of it. It also gets some aggression out and draws the parent/child relationship closer. My brother, sister and I roughhoused with our parents growing up. My brother rough houses with his kids. And they LOVE it! My 6 year old nephew calls it "bonding time". Every day he looks forward to playing around with his dad, he says it makes him tough. Cause he can get smacked with a pillow and he knows he'll be okay. (This is the same kid whose 1st sentence was, Mom watch this! As he bellyflopped off the back of the couch onto the floor, laughed, got up and did it again.) I didn't realize that some "stunts" had names for them, I was suprised by that! Steamroller is my favorite. Takes people by suprise and they can't believe that a grown woman just yelled STEAMROLLER and is rolling over them! lol *I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.*

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hardy

    I am really enjoying this book. Oh to know that we know how to rough house and rough housing is good. We are doing something right. Love the way this is written and it is an easy read and you just want to get up and try some of these "activities." I am really enjoying this book. Oh to know that we know how to rough house and rough housing is good. We are doing something right. Love the way this is written and it is an easy read and you just want to get up and try some of these "activities."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bill Lalonde

    Fantabulous! Every parent should read this.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Quick read, good ideas “I wanna mess with you,” is the phrase my son uses when he wants to rough house. Sometimes 5 to 10 minutes of play can change his demeanor for the rest of the day or evening. In the first pages the author accounts a time in which he was roughhousing and it dawned on him, wondering if anyone had written a book on roughhousing. So, here it is. It was a quick read, and reads mostly as a manual on how to roughhouse with some observations of the effects of roughhousing, or play. Quick read, good ideas “I wanna mess with you,” is the phrase my son uses when he wants to rough house. Sometimes 5 to 10 minutes of play can change his demeanor for the rest of the day or evening. In the first pages the author accounts a time in which he was roughhousing and it dawned on him, wondering if anyone had written a book on roughhousing. So, here it is. It was a quick read, and reads mostly as a manual on how to roughhouse with some observations of the effects of roughhousing, or play. I suppose it’s a needed book, along the side of the articles and books promoting the need to recess, as it’s been forgotten.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    3.5 stars I would have appreciated if all the lists of roughhouse ideas were in an appendix at the back, rather than at the end of each chapter. My interest was more in the Why of roughhousing than the What. Our kids take care of that pretty well on their own! I didn’t read this needing to be persuaded this was a good idea. Someone who was against wrestling and all, don’t know that they would be persuaded by the book. Felt more like a few more ways and reasons to do what you’re probably already d 3.5 stars I would have appreciated if all the lists of roughhouse ideas were in an appendix at the back, rather than at the end of each chapter. My interest was more in the Why of roughhousing than the What. Our kids take care of that pretty well on their own! I didn’t read this needing to be persuaded this was a good idea. Someone who was against wrestling and all, don’t know that they would be persuaded by the book. Felt more like a few more ways and reasons to do what you’re probably already doing. YES on kids needing to be active, get out, get bumped around and fall over and laugh without interventions and all. Emotional resiliency must be practiced, not with Helicopter Mom.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

    A book that explains the rationale behind rough play, is filled with creative games & helpful visual images. All of the rough play ideas have resulted in laughter, sweating, improvised rules creativity & a resounding “AGAIN!” I’ve seen confidence developing as they master “CLIFF HANGER” etc. As a mom I feel more connected & confidence myself in playing rough with them which has typical been an activity differed to dad. Glad I actually bought this book so I can refer back.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Llael

    Fantastic. Short and to the point, just enough research to convince me of the benefits of roughhousing to physical, socio-emotional, and intellectual development. Just enough vignette to help me see how I could apply some of the games to parenting and behavioral challenges. Well organized and and easy to flip through to find an activity that fits for us now.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    This is a great book! The authors give many examples of how roughhousing is good for a child's mental and physical development, along with specific play techniques. Some of the benefits of horseplay include strength, creativity and courage. Also, it can increase the bond between parent and child. A must read for any parent! This is a great book! The authors give many examples of how roughhousing is good for a child's mental and physical development, along with specific play techniques. Some of the benefits of horseplay include strength, creativity and courage. Also, it can increase the bond between parent and child. A must read for any parent!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I never thought I would need a book to know how to rough house with my child, but unfortunately it does not come naturally to me. This book has a great overview of some ground rules, safety concerns and many ideas for games to try with various age levels and very detailed notes to make anyone feel comfortable trying them!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Some interesting arguments for physical play, some nice examples and suggestions for starting out. Kind of wish the explanation for the name of the activity was in its own paragraph underneath the explanation for how to perform it, just to make it easier to read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    Definitely one to keep on the shelf for reference. Lots of great ideas for connecting with your kids through play.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dave Johnson

    Loved the combination of psychology and games: a lot of how-tos for different, fun games and activities, along with strategies for helping build confidence and skills.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Vv

    Great for little (easily liftable kids)! Led to lots of fun moments in the park!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Mostly a list of different wrestling/roughhousing activities, but some writing on the benefits of physical activity and roughhousing in general.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gregg R.

    Fun ideas. Encouraged me to keep wrestling with my kids.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dini

    Great ideas for rough and tumble play.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    Seriously want to own this book but expensive right now. One of its kind. Definitely get the print version for the pics. Awesome dad book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Richmond Vernon

    I thought there would be more science behind the value of roughhousing. That was present, but much of the book is more of a how-to for parents that might not take naturally to roughhousing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Short but lots of insight and great ideas!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dante

    This book is TOTALLY awesome! I can't believe how great this book is. EVERY father NEEDS to read this book. The science behind touching is astounding; as is why it's important for a parent to physically play with your kids. This is MOST important for single fathers; ESPECIALLY those fathers who are experiencing parental alienation. The bonding between parents and kids is just amazing. A MUST read for all parents. This book is TOTALLY awesome! I can't believe how great this book is. EVERY father NEEDS to read this book. The science behind touching is astounding; as is why it's important for a parent to physically play with your kids. This is MOST important for single fathers; ESPECIALLY those fathers who are experiencing parental alienation. The bonding between parents and kids is just amazing. A MUST read for all parents.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dachokie

    Drives Home the Message to Parents: It's Healthy to Play with Your Kids! This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in a house where our Dad was a physically involved parent throughout our childhoods. I still remember my sister and I getting thrown up, down, and around when we were little and loving every bit of it. Now, as the parent of two little girls, it is my turn to keep the rough-play t Drives Home the Message to Parents: It's Healthy to Play with Your Kids! This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in a house where our Dad was a physically involved parent throughout our childhoods. I still remember my sister and I getting thrown up, down, and around when we were little and loving every bit of it. Now, as the parent of two little girls, it is my turn to keep the rough-play tradition alive. I picked up THE ART OF ROUGHHOUSING hoping to learn some new tricks to use on the girls, but ended up being educated on how beneficial physical play is for kids. What drew me to the book was the simplified format: the authors' introduction to the art of rough-play and the important role it plays in a child's development, followed by an instructional and illustrated series of roughhousing moves/techniques that are gender-neutral. With its thick pages and compact size, the book is built to be used as a handy reference that can be grabbed on the fly. Each of the techniques is given a two-page spread: the left page has the technique's name, appropriate age range for child, degree of difficulty (to assist parents in determining safety issues) and step-by-step instructions on how to appropriately administer the "move" ... the facing page methodically illustrates the "move". Most will find that simply looking at the illustrations is enough, but the written instructions address important safety issues for some of the advanced techniques. I found the list of ideas to be thoughtfully prepared and thorough ... enough to ensure a wide variety of rough play will continue for many years. Roughhousing in not solely confined to wrestling though, the authors provide imagination and role-playing ideas that are just as fun to experiment with. Whether spicing-up a simple sidewalk stroll, a full-blown water-balloon/ pillow fight or a series of flips or rolls, the authors have covered all the bases for mothers and fathers who want a more engaging approach to parenting that is mutually rewarding. While I enjoyed the examples of roughhousing, I found the authors' claims of how beneficial rough play was to the development of a child's body and brain particularly enlightening. The physical nature of roughhousing enhances confidence, relationship, contact and motor skills. The book provides support in the form of research from behavior scientists, case studies and personal experience/observation. I appreciate the manner in which the authors chose to keep the research aspect of the book secondary to the roughhousing techniques ... it's there if you want it, but not essential reading if you are already a believer of roughhousing with your kid(s). THE ART OF ROUGHHOUSING is a gem of a book. Intending to be fun and engaging (not preachy), the authors' ensure the roughhousing techniques are the focal point of the book. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of all ages should find fun in this book. Go play!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen perceive a problem in America, and that's the wussification (my term) of children. Whether you agree with that or not, will go along way towards your perception of their writing, which is a bit unfortunate because the substance of the book, the activities within, is pretty good. DeBenedet and Cohen open with a legal disclaimer, which is an understandable but contrary indicator to the entir I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen perceive a problem in America, and that's the wussification (my term) of children. Whether you agree with that or not, will go along way towards your perception of their writing, which is a bit unfortunate because the substance of the book, the activities within, is pretty good. DeBenedet and Cohen open with a legal disclaimer, which is an understandable but contrary indicator to the entirety of their work. Basically saying "kids need to do more roughhousing but we're not responsible for the consequences" which really undermines their whole argument. Then they compound their issue with an informercial opening with selective disclosure and carefully worded statements that don't tell the full story. For instance, on page 14, "Roughhousing releases a chemical called brain-derive neurotophic factor (BDNF)." and goes on to espouse the benefits of BDNF. I have little doubts of BDNF's benefits, but it doesn't indicate what other activities might release the chemical that may or may not involve as much injury risk or other potential negative consequences. Furthermore, in their vaguely self-help writing style, DeBenedet frequently stumble on a friend's favorite aphorism "the plural of anecdote is not data." Filling the book with these anecdotes may serve their agenda, but it doesn't really back-up their claims. Despite all this though, I'm not going to pan this book. The actual exercises are pretty good. They provide creative interactive activities for you and your child with appropriate age limitations and easy-to-follow guidance. As a parent of a very physical six year old, I took the time to test most of the age appropriate activities and both of us enjoyed ourselves immensely. Still, even in this section there are flaws. Some of the exercises are redundant. Sleeping Bat (pg 50) is really just a brief hold version of K2 (112). Even the standard dismount from K2 is the release from Sleeping Bat. And Underdog (178) is just an advanced version of It Don't Mean a Thing (174) Meanwhile, Wacky Whirling Dervish (64) is begging for an elbow or shoulder dislocation, featuring a hold they specifically warn you not to do earlier in the book. The short answer is, read the execises carefully, skim the rest, and try and have some fun with it. There is some to be found here.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Scribed audiobook

  26. 5 out of 5

    April

    This is a GREAT book. Its good for parenting ideas for either girls or boys. Its making me think about how I parent my son, where I'm too strict, where he and I can both lighten up, and how I can help him navigate the world by goofing around. I already see a difference- what a difference some safe play can make to frustration and communication levels. For my friend into Parkour- there are at least 2 activities in there about that :-) Even though I won't do every activity they offer, the narrativ This is a GREAT book. Its good for parenting ideas for either girls or boys. Its making me think about how I parent my son, where I'm too strict, where he and I can both lighten up, and how I can help him navigate the world by goofing around. I already see a difference- what a difference some safe play can make to frustration and communication levels. For my friend into Parkour- there are at least 2 activities in there about that :-) Even though I won't do every activity they offer, the narrative of the book was enough to motivate me. It wasn't preachy, but very encouraging. This is a great set of tools to add to my tool kit. It gives me more confidence we can help S navigate social interactions and his own confidence struggles in the future. Plus it might help me lighten up in general- which is always a good thing.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Wolgemuth

    The first thing that I did with this book was start flipping around to find outstanding roughhouse activities and tricks. My daughters (8, 6, and 3) were looking over my shoulder, asking to try different activities ... and everything that we tried was great (and we even found some tricks for their one-year-old brother). Then - at a later time - I started to peruse the more typical chapter content, and I found it to be excellent as well. It's less immediately actionable, but the authors are insig The first thing that I did with this book was start flipping around to find outstanding roughhouse activities and tricks. My daughters (8, 6, and 3) were looking over my shoulder, asking to try different activities ... and everything that we tried was great (and we even found some tricks for their one-year-old brother). Then - at a later time - I started to peruse the more typical chapter content, and I found it to be excellent as well. It's less immediately actionable, but the authors are insightful and enthusiastic in their endorsement of roughhousing with one's children. More than just providing endorsement, they provide helpful guidance and recommendations. I can imagine giving this book to young parents (and dads especially) in the future for helpfully describes activities that are fun for both parent and kid and that are also beneficial in a number of ways.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    A fun look at how to engage in physical play with your children. There is a bit in the beginning about how important and beneficial such play is, and I appreciated that part of the book a great deal. Sometimes as a father you can feel like you are on the sidelines when it comes to raising your children, and this book is a great encouragement for being involved in ways that dads do best (not that moms can't do these things, of course). The rest of the book is a catalog of some games you can play w A fun look at how to engage in physical play with your children. There is a bit in the beginning about how important and beneficial such play is, and I appreciated that part of the book a great deal. Sometimes as a father you can feel like you are on the sidelines when it comes to raising your children, and this book is a great encouragement for being involved in ways that dads do best (not that moms can't do these things, of course). The rest of the book is a catalog of some games you can play with your children, and there are a few good ideas in there (some of which we've tried at home). It's an interesting idea to try to catalog these things, but I found that many of them I'd already thought of and was already doing and many others didn't really appeal to me much.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Boomershine

    It might seem corny or contrived making lists of ways to play, but this book is needed. Our culture has kids who are afraid to fall, are too still, have parents who are too still. This book lays out an array of play options, small kid to big kid, that allow parents to engage and be active with their kids. It's a helpful book for not parenting your children at arm's distance. Besides illustrated lists of activities, the anecdotes are helpful and relatively light on psychobabble. There is some helpf It might seem corny or contrived making lists of ways to play, but this book is needed. Our culture has kids who are afraid to fall, are too still, have parents who are too still. This book lays out an array of play options, small kid to big kid, that allow parents to engage and be active with their kids. It's a helpful book for not parenting your children at arm's distance. Besides illustrated lists of activities, the anecdotes are helpful and relatively light on psychobabble. There is some helpful research listed, and the book is inspiring to be a hands-on, active, parent who's not afraid of teaching his kids how not to be afraid. This copy is going in the JECA parent library.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    My parenting kick continues. I loved Cohen's _Playful Parenting_, and this is a simple manual of all types of physical play that you can do with your kids. It's wonderfully presented. I know that many of the adults in my life played with me and my sisters in just these ways, without a manual, but I wonder how many more might have been comfortable trying those things if they had a book like this, with great illustrations (though it's always a man with the kid!!!) and how-to instructions. It is a My parenting kick continues. I loved Cohen's _Playful Parenting_, and this is a simple manual of all types of physical play that you can do with your kids. It's wonderfully presented. I know that many of the adults in my life played with me and my sisters in just these ways, without a manual, but I wonder how many more might have been comfortable trying those things if they had a book like this, with great illustrations (though it's always a man with the kid!!!) and how-to instructions. It is a nice and handy book to have around, and I might just buy it after having to inter-library loan it.

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