Why Dads Should Roughhouse With Their Kids

When my daughter was little, we learned how to make adults to gasp in horror with a playtime trick routine the two of us devised. She would stand on my shoulders. I would hold tightly to her ankles. Then she would dive to the ground, head-first, knowing I’d keep a vise-grip on those ankles and stop her descent before she hit the floor.

She’d come to a stop upside down, with her head at knee-level, laughing hysterically while all the responsible people gave us suspicious looks.

Nine years later, I have an excuse for our reckless fun: I was helping make her a better person.

That’s the main idea of a new book called The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It, by Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD, and Lawrence J. Cohen, PhD.


It’s good news for dads everywhere.

From the book:

“Roughhousing activates many different parts of the body and the brain, from the amygdalae, which process emotions, and the cerebellum, which handles complex motor skills, to the prefrontal cortex, which makes high-level judgments. The result is that every roughhousing playtime is beneficial for body and brain as well as for the loftiest levels of the human spirit: social awareness, cooperation, fairness, and altruism.”

That’s the best bonus ever. Your kids get entertained AND you’re activating their amygdala? Awesome.

Plus, the authors say, children who engage in horseplay are more intelligent, more physically fit, and more likeable. I’m no PhD, but I’d wager dads who engage in horseplay are smarter, more fun to be around, and in better shape, too.

So quit reading this and go wrestle your kids. Throw them up in the air. Pounce them tomorrow morning in their beds. You owe it to them AND their prefrontal cortex.

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posted June 18, 2011 at 12:42 am

That is good news. My dad always roughhoused with us kids. And we did with each other, too. And of course we are all brilliant.

I am making a note to do this more with my 8 year old. He will love it. My only problem is they never know when to quit!

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Susie Finkbeiner

posted June 17, 2011 at 10:03 am

My husband has been telling people this ever since our daughter was old enough to toss. He’ll love this!

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Suzy Winter

posted June 17, 2011 at 9:41 am

No wonder my three kiddos are so stinking smart! We always rough housed with them! We have a 20 year old son and two daughters 18yrs and 15 years. Big brother now carries the tradition of rough housing with sisters and if they complain about it – I’ll just tell them he’s helping develop their brain.

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David Nilsen

posted June 17, 2011 at 8:53 am

As a proud roughhousing dad, this is good news. I have gotten strange looks in public and worried shrieks from friends at some of our stunts, but my daughter knows I won’t drop her and she’s learning confidence, adventure and trust all the while!

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