December 13th #WePlayChat on “Serious Play” with Darryl Edwards

Join us on Thursday, December 13th at 4:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Darryl Edwards out of the United Kingdom to our #WePlayChat on “Serious Play.”

Darryl Edwards, Founder of HEALTH Unplugged and owner of Fitness Explorer Training, is an international speaker, coach, nutritionist and author of Paleo Fitness and Paleo from A to Z.  He has been published in titles such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Elle, Men’s Fitness and featured on the BBC, ABC in Australia and the international documentary We Love Paleo.

After almost two decades working as a technologist in investment banking, Darryl transformed his health after adopting an ancestral model to well-being.  Darryl now advises people on maintaining a healthy lifestyle – amidst the epidemic of obesity and other chronic lifestyle diseases.

As the founder of the PRIMAL PLAY methodology, he makes activity fun, effective and engaging while getting individuals healthier, fitter and stronger in the process. He specializes in working with children from 4 to 94 – fitness for those who hate to exercise – as well as for those who love it but relish a new challenge. We are excited to have Darryl’s expertise leading the conversation!

Here are the questions Darryl will be covering during our #WePlayChat dialogue:

  • Q1. What is Serious Play?
  • Q2. Does the emphasis on fun trivialise play?
  • Q3. What are the effects of ‘serious play’ on society?
  • Q4. Does ‘Serious play’ have a place in the workplace? Education space?

#WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the wide open field of play. Launched in 2016, our #WePlayChat participants come from 8 countries, spanning 4 continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.  This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers and experts from across the globe.

We love sharing the voice of play on Twitter through our #WePlayChat.  We have our chats at different times on different days to get the most involvement across our membership.  You will not want to miss them! Tune in and to join in and contribute to the conversation around the value of play.


R&D Project Utilizing Play to Link Design with Classroom Pedagogy Supported by Giving TuesPLAY Funds

Giving TuesPLAY TODAY! When you donate to the US Play Coalition, you help to fund our Action and Research Grants for playmakers, communities and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement.

The 2018 Research Grant Winner is a project from the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University titled “Transitional Play: Investigating the play value of a transitional semi-covered space in an early childhood classroom.”  The goal of this research and development (R&D) effort is architectural innovation and associated evidence demonstrating the positive effects of childcare center indoor-outdoor transitional spaces on child and teacher behavior.  Initiated by the research grant, this proposed R&D project is expected to provide a gateway to creating the first viable prototype of a transitional play and learning space. Findings will be translated into design guidelines demonstrating how a transitional space can become an integral part of the outdoor learning environment and add pedagogical value to classroom design.

GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, November 27, the US Play Coalition will be a part of #GivingTuesday, encouraging YOU to support PLAY by donating to our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement. We call it Giving TuesPLAY! (Get it?!)

Our 2018 Giving TuesPLAY goal is to fund at least one Research Grant and one Action Grant for our upcoming
10th Anniversary season.  We are on our way, thanks to a jump start challenge from our amazing steering committee. Now we challenge you! All funds raised on Giving TuesPLAY go to our grant fund – 100% of it!

To support great projects like this, make sure to donate to #GivingTuesPLAY TODAY!  You can help us provide action and research grants in 2019 with your Giving TuesPLAY gift!

 

 

 


Program Educating on Access to Play for Under-Resourced Children, Especially Girls of Color, Supported by Giving TuesPLAY Funds

Giving TuesPLAY TODAY! When you donate to the US Play Coalition, you help to fund our Action and Research Grants for playmakers, communities and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement.

One of the 2018 Action Grants will support access to play for under-resourced children in Charleston, SC, especially girls and girls of color.  Leaders at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry in Charleston will host “Unequal PLAYing Field: A Panel Discussion on the Importance of Accessing Equal Play for Girls and Girls of Color.”  

The panel and related training will advance ideas and share information about disparities in access to safe, equitable play options for under-resourced children, especially girls and girls of color. Panelists are experts in the field of play, child development, and working with under-resourced communities and will offer first-hand knowledge about the challenges and opportunities to level the playing field for all children. The panel will target teachers, educators, advocates, parents and administrators to spark action on behalf of all Charleston’s children, especially those in under-served communities and communities of color.

GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, November 27, the US Play Coalition will be a part of #GivingTuesday, encouraging YOU to support PLAY by donating to our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement. We call it Giving TuesPLAY! (Get it?!)

Our 2018 Giving TuesPLAY goal is to fund at least one Research Grant and one Action Grant for our upcoming
10th Anniversary season.  We are on our way, thanks to a jump start challenge from our amazing steering committee. Now we challenge you! All funds raised on Giving TuesPLAY go to our grant fund – 100% of it!

To support great projects like this, make sure to donate to #GivingTuesPLAY TODAY!  You can help us provide action and research grants in 2019 with your Giving TuesPLAY gift!

 

 

 


Here is YOUR chance to GIVE the
gift of PLAY on Giving TuesPLAY!

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday is #GivingTuesday. It is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, the US Play Coalition will be a part of #GivingTuesday, encouraging YOU to support PLAY by donating to our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement. We call it Giving TuesPLAY! (Get it?!) Big or small, your gift MATTERS!!

Grant funding is a distinctive feature of our annual Play Conference, and we are proud to have awarded $52,000 in funding to date.   The 2018 grant winners are utilizing play to help children build friendships, providing access especially for girls of color, and linking architecture design with classroom pedagogy.  Check out all of the projects our grants have supported over the years – https://usplaycoalition.org/action-research-grants

Our 2018 Giving TuesPLAY goal is to fund at least one Research Grant and one Action Grant for our upcoming
10th Anniversary season.  We are on our way, thanks to a jump start challenge from our amazing steering committee. Now we challenge you! All funds raised on Giving TuesPLAY go to our grant fund – 100% of it!

YOU can help us provide action and research grants in 2019 with your Giving TuesPLAY gift!  Join the global movement and donate on Tuesday, November 27! Big or small, your gift MATTERS!! We can’t wait to share the future of play with you!


Support Play Trailblazers Like These When You Support Giving TuesPLAY!

This Giving Tuesday, consider donating to Giving TuesPLAY! The support we receive on Giving TuesPLAY helps to fund our wonderful grant winners. These winning projects are trailblazers in the world of play, and we need your help to get them going!

One of our 2018 Action Grant winners is a project called “Loose Parts Play Builds Tight Communities” from Pure Play Every Day, Inc.

In 2017, in her first year as a US Play Coalition Play Ambassador, Patty Stine took advantage of an invitation to participate in the National Night Out (NNO) event at the Huntington Neighborhood Association in Waldorf, MD. She took her minivan and trailer full of play materials to the community center, set up her shade tent, then set out all the loose parts play materials. When the children arrived, they were drawn in by the unique collection of materials that allowed them to have freedom to choose where the play would go. It didn’t take long for them to dive into their evening of adventure. They dug in the sand in the sand and scooped water from the PVC sand and water table. They mixed water from the recycled laundry detergent containers with the sand. They added a bedsheet roof to the cardboard box playhouse. While the children designed, created, built and created new friendships, she snapped a few photos to share the glory of play with the world through Twitter.  This experience was the inspiration for this 2018 Action Grant winning project.

“As children play, they form friendships that cross economic and cultural differences,” says Patty Stine of Pure Play Every Day, Inc. 

With the 2018 action grant project, the Pure Play Every Day team recruited childcare professionals across their county to participate in a loose parts play training program.  In turn, the newly trained professionals could facilitate loose parts play as an available activity for the families attending their community’s NNO event. Pure Play Every Day, Inc. provided the trainees with a loose parts play starter kit as well as a training manual for sharing the purpose and value of play and suggestions for setting-up for loose parts play.

The photos in this post are highlights from some of this year’s Loose Parts Play at the National Night Out events.  Much more is coming from the Pure Play Every Day team!

GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, November 27, the US Play Coalition will be a part of #GivingTuesday, encouraging YOU to support PLAY by donating to our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement. We call it Giving TuesPLAY! (Get it?!)

To support PLAYful projects like this and others, be sure to donate on Giving TuesPLAY – Tuesday, November 27!  YOU can help us provide action and research grants in 2019 with your Giving TuesPLAY gift!

Join the global movement and donate on Tuesday, November 27!  Big or small, your gift MATTERS!! We can’t wait to share the future of play with you!

 


I Used To Think Play Was _________. But Now I Think Play Is _______

After teaching the “Benefits of Play in Child Development” course for the last 10 years, I have read this opening line in students’ reflection paper many times. This year my thoughts about play have also changed. I used to think that play was something I could teach my students but now I think that play is something we need to experience to be understood. The focus of my teaching has always been to help college students understand the benefits of unstructured play by helping me organize a Play Day; a community event where families play with used and recyclable materials. The students create the games or activities for the Play Day but this summer I changed the theme to an Adventure Playground. For those of you reading this, and have just crawled out from under a pre-fab playground set, an Adventure Playground provides children with loose parts and encourages them to engage in freely-chosen, child-directed play.

But…before I could host my first Adventure Playground Play Day, I had to rethink my own thoughts about what an unstructured Play Day would look like. Then I had to convince my students that an adventure playground was the way to go, and finally I had to pull it all together, and get the community to show up.

Thinking Playful Thoughts

Although it was not difficult to image what an adventure playground could look like, kids playing with ‘junk’, it took me some time to accept the idea that an unstructured Play Day could work. At the time I was reading a book about playful intelligence; in fact I had the pleasure of meeting the author at the US Play Coalition Conference in Clemson SC last April. I serendipitously pre-ordered the book by Anthony DeBenedet titled Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World, and discovered after getting home from the conference, and finding the book on my doorstep, that I had met the author at the conference.  Anthony’s book helped me to look at play from a different perspective, the adult point of view. As a university professor, I teach students about children development from a play perspective. My students will one day work with children as a teacher, counselor, occupational therapist, or child life specialist. I am also the parent of two kiddos who love to pretend that they are puppies. I am so steeped in teaching and advocating for children’s play that I forgot to consider adult play! Some of the key points in Anthony’s book helped me to realize that I needed to change things with my play class. That I can use my sense of wonder to rediscover and embrace my imagination; to think about a Play Day that could be different. I knew that play is for all people; I just had to remember that I also needed play.

I think she might be crazy?!

While the students were curious to learn more about adventure playgrounds, they were not sold on the idea, yet. One student thought I was a bit crazy to bring junk to a nature center and let kids play with boxes, pallets, and tubes. After reading parts of Penny Wilson’s Playwork Primer and talking with Morgan Leichter-Saxby co-founder of Pop-up Adventure Playground, the students were beginning to think of themselves as play workers instead of event planners. The role of the play worker is to provide the loose parts and allow children opportunities for risk and child-directed. However, moving to the play worker mindset takes some practice. The students who worked at daycare centers and summer youth programs, had a “safety first” mentality. Students realized they did not have to rush to help children at the Play Day; that in fact they should think of themselves as a resource and not as a remedy. Students appreciated our conversation with Morgan, and were fascinated at the scenes from the documentary “The Land.” They were completely surprised at the level of trust the play workers had with the children as we watched the kiddos use knives, build fires, and scale trees. One student reflected, “Now I know that by telling a child to be careful in the middle of their play, it restricts their play, and I’m not going to do that.”

If you build an adventure playground, they will come?

When I first started hosting Play Days I would make a flyer, post them around town at different businesses and childcare facilities, and hope for the best. Within the last 5 years, I have noticed that the more social networking sites that I posted my event to, it has increased the attendance at the Play Day. I always contact local media outlets to promote the event, however, even after I tell my students about my efforts, and encourage them to post to their social media pages, they are still unsure if anyone would show up. However, it always works! About 60 people came to the Adventure Playground Play Day. Not only was the kiddy-pool filled with mud a favorite, the children were eager to paint their toes, legs, and faces. The parents appreciated the chance for their children to get messy without having to worry about cleaning up the space, that was our responsibility.

The students were concerned about the mess afterwards, however they noted that it was a mess worth cleaning up. They suggested that for “next time” I should warn students about the mess. Although I do plan to give the future student a heads-up, I also want them to experience the Play Day in their own way. If someone had told me, 15 years ago, after I helped my colleagues Joyce Hemphill and Laura Scheinholtz arrange a Play Day, that play would be the focus of my research, advocacy, and teaching philosophy I would never have believed it. You cannot warn people about some things in life, you just have to let them experience it for themselves.

 

About the Author

Heather Von Bank, PhD, is Chair and Associate Professor of Family Consumer Science at Minnesota State University-Mankato.  She teaches and advises in the Child Development and Family Studies area. Her specialty areas include research on parent–child relations during the stage of adolescence and family life issues. Dr. Von Bank is co-author of the book “The Power of Playful Learning.”


Meet Joyce Hemphill,
the “Queen Of Play”

Hello! This is Joyce Hemphill, and I am one of guest bloggers for the US Play Coalition.

So who am I? Many of my colleagues refer to me as the “Queen of Play.” I think of myself as a Play Advocate – someone who promotes the value of play. Simply put, I am passionate about play. AND I want others to be equally enthusiastic about play.

My background in and expertise on play comes from two sides – my personal side as the parent of two sons, now grown, and the professional side as a professor of child development. The mom side has 28 years of hands-on experience watching my sons. I was fascinated by the ways they learned about their world and gained an understanding of who they were through their various adventures in play.

The professional side of me holds a doctorate in developmental psychology and almost 30 years of college classroom experience teaching infant and child development as well as cognition and learning. While at the University of Wisconsin-Madison I developed and taught a course on the Importance of Play in Child Development. The course included a service learning component whereby my students and I offered a “PlayDay,” a community play event.

After retiring from UW spring 2012 I began writing “Playing from Scratch” columns for the US Play Coalition and co-authored The Power of Playful Learning (2014) with Laura Scheinholtz and Heather Von Bank. In addition, I started giving workshops for teachers, parents, families, youth groups, and care providers on ways to create playful learning activities. These hands-on experiences have been complemented with my involvement with the Coalition, as well as the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play, The Association for the Study of Play, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Construction Junction at Madison PlayDay

As a guest blogger I will share my thoughts on the different types of play, the various benefits of play, and the way play changes as a child grows and develops. Included will be tips, suggestions, and helpful information for parents and care providers. I also hope to increase my understanding of play from your questions and your insights of children’s play behaviors. So until next time, I leave you with a quote from American poet and essayist, Diane Ackerman, who said, “Play is our brain’s favorite way to learn.”  


YiP (Yours in Play)
Joyce


Reclaim Reality: Building Community and Sense of Self Through Play

A powerful hero lives among us that society often takes for granted. Play. 

Play is an experience that goes beyond a book or a device. Play takes many forms, and holds endless possibilities and latent power. 

However, the almighty and powerful digital media, where you can be transported anywhere in the world while hiding underneath your bed sheets, consumes our minds. Given the rise and societal dependence on the digital world, play has become increasingly essential. And for some reason we deny it—deny it in schools, deny it in work, deny it from day to day, because it is viewed as frivolous. Play is silenced before we can even understand its significance.

Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp devoted time to studying the value of play and the brain determining, “the function of play is to build pro-social brains, social brains that know how to interact with others in positive ways.”

Digital media implicates play as a threat. Why? The virtual world gives us permission to ret

reat, while providing the illusion of community. When that becomes the norm, play becomes counter intuitive.  The question is how to we reconcile the relationship of play with the virtual world? More importantly, 

how can children develop a sense of self when they are unable to challenge themselves to experience childhood through a less filtered lens. 

Play allows for discovery. Social interaction. And accountability. Anonymity defeats accountability in the virtual arena. Logic would suggest we must encourage play in all facets of development given the extensive research to support that. A beautiful thought. Let the fanfare begin. Alas, we retreat from schools yards and parks, narrowing the definition of play, framing moments rather than discovering them.  Moments of carefree laughter sprinkled throughout the day—a curious rather than an expected sight. 

What is the culprit? 

It is not entirely the fault of the evolving virtual world. 

Play is vulnerable. 

It removes barriers because it requires us to be present. Vulnerability can be scary. Our ideas, thoughts, humor, our pain, our insecurities are exposed face to face. Play encourages children to interact. Human interaction though is becoming less relevant with social media. It makes sense that children would shy away from play, when they have an alternative escape. It is suppressing our natural instinct to play. It may be easier, but not necessarily healthier or productive—more the reason for schools to promote the play, beyond the technological shackles.  Let’s compliment this virtual arena with the freedom of play.

Allowing children to be in playground, in a park, on a field, surrounded by boxes, creating art, building a fort, outdoors, indoors, exploring, wherever it may be, influences their intelligence. Collaboration and negotiating occur in times of play when children share ideas face to face. These skills naturally evolve when in an environment that promotes play. 

The question then becomes, do we want to live in a society where we eliminate social interaction? That goes against human nature. Who does the education system benefit when we deny our human need for social engagement? It may be easier to avoid people nowadays, but we cannot escape them. 

Play is at the core of development. It is pointless to build a home on foundation on quicksand. Let’s not allow the maturing brain to become the quicksand under what we expect to carry adulthood. Allow play to flourish. Allow play to provide balance. Let’s treat play with the respect it deserves and no longer take it for granted.

 

About The Author

​Greg is the Founder/Executive Director of Artcentricity Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit project based Arts Organization, geared towards child development. He is also an Author and US Play Ambassador. He currently resides in New York and has a strong passion for Visual and Performance Arts. Connect with Greg here.


#PlayTakeOver By Brian VanDongen: Summer Camp Gives Kids The Time They Need To Play

Play is crucial in a child’s physical, social, and emotional development.  But most of the year, kids don’t get enough time to play. Summer camp needs to be a time where children can play.

Threats to Play

There are two major threats to play. The first threat is the amount of time children spend being physically active is decreasing. Compared to previous generations, children now spend more time sitting than moving. Schools are adding classroom time at the expense of recess and physical education. There also have been large increases in screen time use in children. A National Institute of Health study 2016 reported that the average child spends approximately five to seven hours per day using a screen. This is nearly – or more than – double the amount of time children used screens according to a 2007 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation study. An increase in sedentary time is a threat to play because most play requires movement and action.

A second threat to play is the lack opportunities for children to improvise or use their own resources for play. Parental concern for safety has led to an increase in the use of toys and games that have a directive nature because of the parental fear of letting children playing unsupervised. Many toys and games now come with a set of instructions or rules. This hinders creativity and the opportunity for free play. For example, if a child has a doll or action figure from a TV show, that toy has a pre-defined personality, story, and character. However, a generic doll or action figure has none, so the child is able to create his or her own story and character for the doll or action figure.

The Role of Play At Summer Camp

Because of the threats to play in a child’s life, play takes on a role of increased importance at summer camp. Camp allows children the time to play: while many activities at camp are organized and directed by the counselors, ample time for free play should be included in a daily summer camp schedule. Campers can create imaginative scenarios and explore together while the counselors either watch over them or actively engage in the child-driven play. Campers may ask their counselors to play a role in their scenario. Good camp counselors will take on that role and be fun!

Many parents are concerned – and rightfully so – about their child’s education and the lack of formal schooling during the summer months. However, free play is crucial to a child’s development. Higher levels of school adjustment, increased social development, and increased literacy skills are all benefits of free play. If children aren’t getting the amount of play they need during the school year,

While children’s opportunities for play and physical activity being reduced in their “normal” world, there needs to be ample time for play at summer camp so children can experience the benefits of free play.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “it is a happy talent to know how to play.” This talent is crucial for child development, and every child should have the opportunity to acquire the talent to play. There are countless benefits of play; however, many can fall into four main categories: physical, emotional, social, and cognitive.

In today’s increasingly sedentary world, play and physical activity help children become physically fit. Children learn movement control, acquire body-spatial awareness, develop fine and gross motor skills and increase flexibility and balancing skills when they play. In addition, when children are involved in physical activity, they build stronger muscles and improve bone density, improve heart and lung function and prevent obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. Children who are physically active at a young age and enjoy that physical activity are more likely to become physically active adults.

The physical benefits of play are easily noticeable. However, there are internal benefits of play that are not so easily identified but that are crucial to a child’s development, such as emotional development. Play often times allows children to experiment with physical challenges – such as climbing and hanging; these opportunities encourages them to evaluate and take risks. By taking that risk and overcoming that challenge, children develop a sense of accomplishment, leading to higher self-confidence and self-esteem levels.

A key reason children look forward to play is the opportunity to spend time with their friends and the change to make new friends. These social interactions are important. In group play, children learn social roles and cultural rules and develop appropriate cooperation skills. Group play teaches children about real-life relationships; when children develop and test relationships, they learn self-control and negotiation skills. These skills help children prepare for a lifetime of interacting with others.

Experts agree that play is critical for a child’s brain development. In play, children develop language and reasoning skills. Play encourages independent thinking and problem solving abilities and often can improve a child’s focus. Children develop verbal skills, judgment and reasoning and creativity.

We are the adults we become because of our play experiences as children and the skills we learn when we play.

Good summer camps offer children to opportunity to play. Because at camp, and with play, children grow, explore, learn, and have fun – all without even realizing it.

 

About the Author

Brian VanDongen is a parks and recreation professional in Hillsborough Township (N.J.).  He has extensive experience working in parks and recreation and an educational background in Excercise Science and Physical Education as well as in Sport and Exercise Psychology.  Brian is a play ambassador for the US Play Coalition.  Check out his blog “The First Quarter.”

 

*Photo of children playing on bars courtesy of Brian VanDongen


Benefits of Roughhousing
(Rough and Tumble) Play

“Play is so integral to childhood that a child who does not have the opportunities to play is cut off from a major portion of childhood.” — Musselwhite

In recent years, roughhousing, or rough-and-tumble play has fallen out of favour. Rough-and-tumble play is when children climb over each other, wrestle, roll around and even pretend to fight. Often termed play-fighting it differentiates itself from real fighting, even if it looks aggressive, as there are visible displays of fun, smiling and laughing. I used to play wrestle with my brother all the time in my youth, it was so much fun!

Its reduction over time as a kid’s pastime has been blamed for everything from increasing levels of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) [2] to higher incidents of accidents during school playtime (recess).

This is a trend that by attempting to reduce risk in daily activities outlaws many types of adventurous play; for example, according to Dame Fiona Reynolds, master of Emmanuel College at Cambridge University, children are three times more likely to end up in the hospital now because they have fallen out of bed rather than out of a tree. 

THE RESEARCH
A wave of books and medical research papers are helping to publicize the physical, mental, emotional and social benefits of roughhousing.

One book on this subject is The Art of Roughhousing by Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD and Lawrence Cohen PhD. In it, the authors describe at least six different benefits of rough-and-tumble play for kids. First and most obviously, there is the physical aspect of roughhousing. These days, just about everyone knows that kids should be getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, although government recommendations tell us it should be far more activity for kids. A little rough-and-tumble play is one easy way to accomplish more movement minutes in our day. What better way to blow off a little extra energy than by chasing someone around the house or having a fake wrestling match in the middle of the living room. Even better, of course, why not take it outdoors?

Try some rough and tumble play…

 

NOT JUST PHYSICAL
The benefits of roughhousing extend well beyond just the physical. It can also lead to heightened social and emotional intelligence too. For one, kids can learn to differentiate between different facial expressions and body language. However, they also learn about taking turns and cooperation. Often, small groups of kids roughhousing together on the playground will divide themselves into teams to accomplish a particular goal, and that’s all about teamwork, leadership and problem-solving. It has also been suggested that play opens emotional pathways for the epigenetic construction of the social brain, [1] indeed a third of 1,200 brain genes evaluated by Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics at Northwestern University are shown to be significantly modified within an hour of a 30-min play session. [5]

Some researchers have also indicated that rough and tumble play builds moral and ethical character. Work by Stuart Brown demonstrates that kids with few opportunity for play are more likely to become anti-social and exhibit criminal behaviour when older. [4] This is where adults can play a huge role, since they can teach kids about safety, about looking after those who are weaker, and about using one’s strength in ethical ways. From an evolutionary perspective, it appears that roughhousing might have been an early way for members of a particular tribe to build bonds with each other and establish their overall likeability.

Perhaps the real overlooked benefit of rough-and-tumble play, though, concerns the mental and cognitive benefits. Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, the authors of “Wild Justice”, have suggested that the unpredictable nature of roughhousing increases the number of connections between neurons in the cerebral cortex. This leads to improved cognitive performance, similar to the effects of dancing. Moreover, some neuroscientists have suggested that rough-and-tumble play increases the brain’s level of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This mysterious-sounding chemical is responsible for memory, logic and advanced cognitive skills, so the more, the better.

NOT JUST FOR THE KIDS
Of course, there are obvious benefits for adults who engage in roughhousing with their kids. Primal Play also encourages this in adult-to-adult games of movement too, why should kids have all the fun? Many adults lead mostly sedentary lives (i.e. sitting all day at the office and then all evening on the couch), so roughhousing encourages them to increase their activity level in a way that lets off some steam. Also, all of that physical activity can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. There’s nothing quite like shrieks of laughter from your kids to make other financial or social difficulties melt into the background. Try playing the Primal Play game Shoulder Barge with a friend and have some fun!

“When we roughhouse with our kids, we model for them how someone bigger and stronger holds back. We teach them self-control, fairness, and empathy. We let them win, which gives them confidence and demonstrates that winning isn’t everything. We show them how much can be accomplished by cooperation and how to constructively channel competitive energy so that it doesn’t take over.”
— DeBenedet and Cohen

As long as roughhousing follows basic safety rules and doesn’t take place too close to bedtime (when the body should be winding down), it can have significant benefits for both kids and adults. The good news is that the pendulum might finally be shifting back in favor of roughhousing and rough-and-tumble behavior.

 

About the Author

Darryl Edwards, is a Movement Coach, Natural Lifestyle Educator, nutritionist and creator of the Primal Play Method™. Darryl developed the Primal Play methodology to inspire others to make activity fun while getting healthier, fitter and stronger in the process.

Darryl is the owner of Fitness Explorer Training and author of several books including Paleo Fitness and Paleo from A to Z.  His work has been published in titles such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Elle Magazine, Men’s Fitness and featured on the BBC documentaries Eat to Live Forever and Doctor In The House.  His latest book, Animal Moves, is available now!

 

REFERENCES

[1] Panksepp J., “Affective neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions.” New York: Oxford University Press; 1998a.
[2] Panksepp J., “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, psychostimulants and intolerance of childhood playfulness: A tragedy in the making?” Current Directions in Psychological Science. 1998b;7:91–98.
[3] Panksepp J., “The long-term psychobiological consequences of infant emotions: Prescriptions for the twenty-first century.”, Infant Mental Health Journal. 2001;22:132–173.
[4] Brown, S., “Play as an organizing principle: clinical evidence and personal observations. Animal play: Evolutionary, comparative, and ecological perspectives.”, Cambridge University Press; Cambridge: 1998. pp. 242–251
[5] Jaak Panksepp et al., “A novel NMDA receptor glycine-site partial agonist, GLYX-13, has therapeutic potential for the treatment of autism,” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.06.006.