What Girls Gain From Rough and Tumble Play

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Image via Katie Hurley

Raise your hand if you remember Red Rover. When people muse about the games that emerged years ago when kids weren’t quite so supervised out in the wild, I find myself lost in a sea of fond memories about games like Red Rover. Red Rover, Red Rover send Katie right over! Find the weakest link – attempt to barrel through arms linked together to take a player back to your own team.

Ah, the eighties.

Steal the Bacon was another winner. Kids still play this game, today, but with a few more rules in place. You can tag the person who grabs the bacon first, for instance. Back in “olden days”, we went for the tackle. We grabbed shirts, dragged each other down, and laughed until our stomachs hurt. Girls and boys played with equal energy levels. We played until the stars came out and our moms came looking for us.

Rough and tumble play, the kind of play that involves friendly physical contact, gets squashed a bit these days.

Fears about injuries make this kind of play unacceptable in some settings (many schools can’t allow it due to legal issues). While some parents are content with this kind of play, others really don’t like it. It becomes a bit of a balancing act.

It’s an important part of child development, though, and kids should be encouraged to engage in it more often – especially girls. We hear a lot about why boys need rough and tumble play in their lives, but girls need it, too.

Here’s why:

They gain confidence.

When girls are left to push their limits and test their own strength, they find confidence. They learn that they are strong, brave, and assertive.

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Sometimes girls are socialized to be cautious in their play. Look before you leap, we whisper as they head out to play. There’s a lot to be gained from leaping first when it comes to play. If you’re always assessing for potential damage, how can you every truly know what you’re made of?

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What Girls Gain From Rough and Tumble Play

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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