Many parents wonder how much roughhousing is too much roughhousing. Two fathers set out to answer that question with their book The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It. The dads, Anthony T. DeBenedet M.D. and Lawrence J. Cohen PhD, make a great case for throwing your kid around like a sock monkey, then show you some tactics and how-tos for doing it effectively.

There has always been some grey-area discussion about acceptable levels of roughhousing, and whether it’s good for your child. The truth is that roughhousing is great! Every family child is different, so appropriate (and physically-possible) roughhousing games will vary from one house to the next. DeBenedet and Cohen offer many activities that are broken up by chapter into different physical classes, such as “Games,” “Contact,” and “Imagination.” The book covers over 60 activities in six classes, so there’s something here for every type of parent.

The Art of Roughhousing

It is, of course, up to you as a parent to figure out which activity or group of activities entertain your child and which don’t. What’s awesome is that you’ll find many activities that you’ve already done with your child in the past, but reading background them and seeing the correct step-by-step way to do them is helpful. Along with each activity you’ll find an age group, a difficulty rating, and essential skills that the activity promotes. Some skills are obvious like jumping, spotting, running and landing but others are more conceptual like adventure, storytelling, divergent thinking, and losing and winning.

Art of Roughhousing page

Diagram for "The Balloonist"

The age group is a nice touch. Clearly, DeBenedet and Cohen aren’t suggesting you do every activity with every child. You shouldn’t have a “Raucous Pillow Fight” with a six month old baby (as they deem it suitable for ages “4 and up”), but you can do their suggested “Steamroller” move.

Having the book laid out like this really legitimizes all of the silly games you’ve played with your kid from day one – and for those skittish parents who think they might break their kid, The Art of Roughhousing reassures you that this sort of activity is essential to a child’s physical development.

The black-and-white-on-blue diagrams are very competent and are done in style reminiscent of other how-to manuals. Each diagram will show you starting and ending positions if necessary, or otherwise show you in-general what you’re supposed to look like while doing an activity.

The end result is a manual that shows you steps to enhancing your and your child’s mental and physical health. Plus, you’ll learn how to throw your kid without hurting them (or yourself). Hey, the authors say that “roughhousing is great fun because it’s a little dangerous,” and that’s important to remember.

There aren’t enough good things to say about this book; it’s simply but intelligently written, it’s thorough, and it’ll get you flipping the crap out of your kid like you’re a forgotten member of Cirque du Soleil. And if you’re a father that’s been struggling to find time to work out and take care of his own body, this book is a perfect reminder that your kids can be used as weights! From jousting to Navy SEAL rolls to playing imaginary crane, The Art of Roughhousing has an activity for every parent to try with their kids. This is a definite pick-up for any parent, especially us dads who enjoy physical play with their kids.