We all know how important play is for children's development, and one of the most exciting forms of play is "rough and tumble" play. But a lot of us, including myself, sometimes avoid encouraging rough and tumble because we're worried about children's safety, and if you're from a background of childhood trauma like me, the style of rough and tumble play may trigger your nervous system.
But the good news is there's safe and fun ways to still promote rough and tumble play, while also ensuring the emotional health and well-being for us who may find this play behaviour challenging to watch.
Rough and tumble play is a great way for kids to explore their physical boundaries and consent, build spatial awareness, and learn about force control. However, since social isolation and reduced outdoor activities, some children might be missing out on this essential aspect of childhood.
In this article, we'll explore various activities that can help children develop these skills, and we'll introduce a free handout to support educators and teachers in their efforts.
Why Spatial Awareness and Force Control Matter
Before we dive into the rough and tumble activities, let's talk about why spatial awareness and force control are so important for a child's development.
Spatial awareness helps children understand the space around them and how their bodies fit into it.
Force control allows them to gauge the amount of pressure needed for different actions. Together, these skills let kids safely enjoy rough and tumble play.
Fun Activities to Boost Spatial Awareness and Force Control
Tug-of-War and Heavy Trolley Pulling Tug-of-war is a fantastic activity for kids who are still developing their spatial awareness and force control. Pulling a wagon or pushing a heavy trolley loaded with books, toys, or blocks provides an exciting, hands-on experience that enhances proprioception (a sense of the position and movement of one's body).
Parachute Games Parachute games offer opportunities for children to feel pressure in their bodies both gently and, you guessed it, roughly. Get kids involved in activities like rolling up or unrolling the mat during snack time. You can also use a long block for pushing smaller blocks, which is a great indoor activity to promote force control.
Dough Rolling and Ring Around a Rosy Rolling dough, whether it's Play-Doh or the real deal, offers tactile pressure sensations that help children become more aware of their strength. Games like 'Ring around a Rosy' provide valuable feedback about force control while moving in a circle.
Rolling and Knocking Over Soft Toys Rolling down a hill or on a yoga mat provides proprioception and pressure sensations. Knocking over soft toys during these activities adds excitement and helps children learn to control their force. Playing with empty drink bottles can also be a fun way to develop these skills.
Crawling Through Small Spaces Crawling through small spaces, like hula hoop tunnels, is an excellent way to teach children about spatial awareness and control. Tearing paper, leaves, or bark can further help develop fine motor skills and grip strength.
Tummy Time Activities Having children lie on their tummy during play helps develop core strength. Activities like rolling a ball toward a wall target, playing coits on their tummy, or rolling a car across a track on their tummy are great for building force control.
Fitball and Peanut Ball Activities Rolling their tummy across a fitball or a peanut ball helps children understand force, speed, and pressure in a safe and appropriate way. This is essential for rough and tumble play because it allows them to gain a better grasp of their own strength.
In a world where children are increasingly isolated from physical play and sitting on screens, it's crucial for families, educators and teachers to guide them in developing essential skills like spatial awareness and force control.
These skills not only enable healthy rough and tumble play but also enhance a child's overall physical and cognitive development.
To support you, I encourage you to download the free "Rough and Tumble Handout". This resource is designed to assist you in promoting safe and productive rough and tumble play, ensuring that children can grow and thrive in their physical development, while also helping you to feel comfortable with this style of play.
Let's make a collective effort to keep rough and tumble play an integral part of every child's journey towards a healthy and active life.