Nina and Luke run to the door. “Daddy! Daddy!” they call. They are excited. They know the fun will begin soon…
Daddy picks each one of them up, offers a tight squeeze hug and, then, swings them down, clock pendulum style, as he tries to enter the house.
From there, the race is on. Daddy tries to beat the kids down the hall to his bedroom door so he can go change. Often, this race turns into a literal “drag race”: One or both of the kids clings to Daddy’s legs – giggling.
Later, once Daddy is in his comfy clothes, the pleas for “rough play” begin, and the games commence.
Sometimes, the game of the night is a recent one that Daddy, Nina and Luke have made up – Elephant-Rhino. It entails singing out the name of the game in loud shouts, while enacting the animals with lots of running, pushing, pulling and butting. At other times, it’s their old favorite original, Red Bull- Blue Bull, which is much like Elephant-Rhino, but with more charging and butting. Or, it might be their oldest self-created game – Touchdown. This one was made up one cold evening while Mommy was at work (since Mommy would have never allowed it when she was home!), and it involves running all throughout the house, dodging one another’s blocks and tackles, while trying to make it to the goal – a dive onto the bed or couch – shouting “touchdown”. Still other nights, “rough play” becomes just that – rough play. Pushing, pulling, tackling, jumping and wrestling in madcap mayhem with no particular rules (besides Mommy’s mandate that the general area of play be cleared of extra objects and furniture which might poke out an eye, crack a skull or otherwise turn laughter into crying.)
Now, before you wonder, “Elephant-Rhino. Red Bull-Blue Bull. Touchdown. General rough play. Don’t these types of play belong outside?” Let me interject by saying, “Ideally, all this rough play would not happen in the house! Mommy would very much like slower feet and quieter voices inside. But, in the name of Dad-and-kiddo fun and health-for all, I have turned a blind eye to my ‘no running in the house rule’, adapting it to 'we only do this with Daddy.'" Why? Rough play works for us!
"What", you say. "In the name of health? What does that mean?" Well, in the better weather, we have lovely EEE-carrying mosquitoes holding us hostage inside at dusk when Daddy gets home. So, we feel it's better to be crazy inside then bitten outside. And, in the colder months, the sun is already down when Daddy gets home. So, we figure, it's better to play where you can see objects that might trip you up and cause injury inside rather than playing "blind" in darkness outside. Plus, rough play – inside or out – is just what Daddy, Luke and Nina need.
Daddy spends hours each day stuck in traffic, commuting to a job that requires mostly sedentary mundane mental tasks. So, for both his physical and mental well-being, he needs the activity and amusement of acquiescing to the cries of “rough play” when he gets home.
Nina is but three – a prime age for ensuring good motor development and skills in the name of better all around development. (See the book Gorwing an In-Sync Child, which I reviewed here, for more on this.) All the running, jumping, pushing, pulling and other large muscle work involved in rough play with Daddy are building blocks, believe it or not, for more academic success later on.
And, Luke? Well, not only is he in the same motor-driven stage that Nina is in, but he also needs a daily dose of much of what rough play involves. When we stopped doing formal Occupational Therapy (OT) with him in the late spring, his therapist instructed me to continue to do OT with him at home, maintaining a balanced sensory diet which includes ample portions of proprioceptive (muscle) and vestibular (balance) input. That is just what generous quantities of “rough play” can offer.
So, call the squeeze hugs, pendulum swings and almost-too-crazy-for-indoors play a fun ritual for Daddy, Nina and Luke (and Jack, once he gets mobile, too). Call it all crazy (as Mommy sometimes fears it may instill bad habits regarding running and shouting in the house). Call it whatever you like. We know what it is: Home Therapy through a Large Helping of Daddy Time! It works for us.
How about you? What are some of your favorite at-home therapies or rough play games? Do share in a comment. and, be sure to check out links at We Are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday for sundry other tips for home, work and life in general.