Dads just seem to have a natural gift for rough and tumble play. Not that moms don’t like to get in on the tackling and wrestling fun sometimes too (see the video below)!
10 Fun Rough and Tumble Play Activities for Kids
In honor of Father’s Day, we’re bringing you 10 fun rough and tumble games and activities that are all tried and true regulars at my house. Some of them are classics that you may know already, others will probably be new additions to your roughhouse repertoire!
From a developmental perspective, rough and tumble play is one of the most amazing opportunities for sensory input and gross motor skill-building. Oh and…it’s SUPER fun!
*Please use common sense when trying these activities. Some of them use your body weight to provide gentle pressure to your child’s body – please gauge the safety of these activities based on your body weight and the size of your child. The activities below are not safe for babies and are intended for older kids, but you’re the judge of what is safe for your child.
Never force roughhouse play on a child who is resistant to it – it’s not for everybody! Have another adult standing nearby to protect your child from falling or injury.
1- AIRPLANE – This simple activity is one of my boys’ favorites and can be adapted for younger kids. For bigger kids – let them fly up high, their tummies will rest on your feet and you’ll hold their hands tight. For little ones – rest them on your shins and just bounce gently. This is a great way to practice Tummy Time and an awesome vestibular sensory experience for kids!
2- CIRQUE DE SOLEIL – It’s hard to explain this one – take a peek at the video above. Cirque de Soleil takes some practice (along with a mom or dad with strong arms!) and it’s a good idea to do it with someone spotting the child at first until you get the hang of it!
3- SQUISHES – This is a before-bed favorite at our house and definitely does not fall in the category of Sensory Friendly Sleep Tips. It gets my kids revved up, wild, and crazy. But sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind in the name of a good time, right? Have your child lay on his back while you hover over him, resting on your hands and knees. Have him count down from 5 and when he gets to zero – let your body fall gently onto his (you’ll want to keep some of your weight on your arms so you don’t squish too hard! :) Try two kids at once for even more fun!
4- WATER SKIER – I have no idea why, but my younger son calls this activity “Skiing Vacation”. It has become a favorite in the pool or just when we’re sitting around the living room. If you’re standing in the pool, bend your knees just a bit so your child can stand on the tops of your thighs (his skis). Hold his hands and run backward through the water so your child can ski! At home, sit in a chair with your child standing on your lap, holding his hands so he’s positioned like a water skier. Rock forward and backward for a little balance challenge!
5- SUMO WRESTLERS – A super easy one…stuff a couple of pillows up your shirts, take a running start, and bump tummies!
6- THE MOP – Looking for an easy way to clean your floors? Let your child lie on his back on a wood or other hard, smooth floor. Grab his feet and drag him all over the place!
7- MY FAVORITE BOOTS – All it took was one viewing of this commercial for my boys to come up with this one. If you show them the video clip, there really is no need for an explanation, your little ones will know just what to do. But basically, let two kids grab hold around each of your calves and take a little walk. It’s an amazing workout for mom or dad and works best on hard, smooth floors so you can slide the kids along as you walk.
8- GRAB IT! – My awesome Uncle Pat invented this one when we were kids. The adult sits on a chair or couch while the kids are positioned on their hands and knees on the floor in front of him. Throw an object out in front of the kids – just out of their reach (a beanbag, a stuffed animal, anything will do).
The adult grabs hold of one child’s ankle in each hand. The kids have to crawl out and try to be the first one to grab the object…while the adult has a grand old time of letting the kids get just within reach before pulling them back away from the object. Two kids can play, or you can try it with just one.
9- STEAM ROLLER – My husband’s invention. Let kids lay down on a bed side by side. Dad starts at one end and rolls across the kids, enjoying every groan and giggle! :) An amazing whole body proprioceptive and tactile sensory experience!
10- SLEEPING WHALE (OR MONSTER) – My sister and I came up with this one when we were kids. The grown up lies on his stomach on the couch (notice how the adult is nearly always sitting or laying down in these…this is not a coincidence :). Kids pile up onto his back, sitting down and pretending they think they’re just sitting on a regular chair or bench. “Oh! Isn’t it a lovely day? It’s so nice to just sit down and relax on this nice comfy bench!”
When suddenly, they realize as dad starts to move and make noise…this isn’t a bench at all! It’s a whale/monster/some other scary beast!!!! Dad chases kids around the room…kids scream…everyone back to the couch…and repeat.
Not sure what to do when it comes to roughhousing play, or just looking for new fun activities to try with your kids? Do yourself a favor and check out the book The Art of Roughhousing by Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen (Author). It’s full of fun and hilarious rough and tumble games to play with kids ranging from simple, classic play activities to an entire chapter on “Extreme Roughhousing”.
Written by two doctors, the book also highlights the importance of roughhouse play for healthy development. Don’t know what to get dad for Father’s Day? This is it!!
We’re guessing you may have some of your own favorite roughhouse games to add to this list – we’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below or post them on our Facebook page !
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