Ban Chairs — Not Tag

 Hi kiybkzthnt
Folks! This comes to us from Heather Shumaker, author of It’s OK Not to Share…And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids (Tarcher/ Penguin, 2012), which was named one of the Best Parenting Books of 2012 by Parents magazine.  She’s a speaker, blogger and advocate for free play and no homework for young children who lives in northern Michigan with her family. She blogs at Take it away, Heather!  – L

Ban Chairs – Not Tag, by Heather Shumaker

Why roughhousing prepares kids better for life and school than a life of safety and sitting down

The original title of my book was “Boxing at Preschool”  (now titled It’s OK NOT to Share…And Other Renegade Rules).  That’s because my childhood preschool had boxing gloves and welcomed wrestling matches in the classroom.  This was a bold school not afraid of life and childhood, with all the accompanying messiness and glorious risk.

When kids began to tumble together like puppies on the floor, instead of screeching “you two get your hands off each other!” the teachers at this school said, “Why not?” They brought in tumbling mats.  In fact, they went further.  They created a designated Running Room: a big, empty room where kids could MOVE – run, jump, yell, climb, wrestle and play chase games.  There were hooks on the ceiling for rope swings and otherwise big open space.

Kids need play, not chairs, for academic success.  Roughhousing– playful physical games with willing partners—actually boosts brain power.

During book talks I give, men in the audience often approach me and confide that they grew up being told they were “bad” simply because their bodies needed to move.  It’s even worse in this generation.  Moving has become misbehavior.

It’s no surprise it’s the men who tell me this.  Boys move more.  Studies by psychologist Warren Eaton show boys are consistently more physically active, starting at age 2 and peaking at ages 7-8.  Of course, many kids are “high energy” or super active – girls included – and active motion is good for everyone.

My preschool teachers back in the 1970s knew rough-and-tumble play was good for kids.  Now we know why.  Current brain research shows that roughhousing games increase brain power.  All that goofing off and horsing around?  It actually strengthens the frontal lobe – an area of the brain vital for impulse control, memory and later academic success.  In fact, researchers credit rough play to better learning, flexibility, problem-solving, impulse control, memory, executive function, social and emotional skills, and creativity.  Wow. All that from rolling around on the floor with a friend in a fun game.

What’s important to remember is that preparation for school looks nothing like school itself.  Roughhousing can be just as important as reading to kids.

Rough-and-tumble play advocates like Dr. Anthony DeBenedet (The Art of Roughhousing) consider roughhousing to be the “holy grail” of children’s play.  Long-term studies by Dr. Rebecca Marcon tracked kids in academic preschools versus play-based preschools.  The kids in the academic programs did worse later in elementary school – both their grades and behavior. It’s simply the way human development works.

Here are some ideas for adding action, movement, risk and power into kids’ lives:

  • Active energy is not misbehavior.  Kids need room for loud, fast, daring and rough-and-tumble play.  Change the environment to make room for it.
  • Motion boosts learning, memory and focus by building neural pathways and neuron growth. Some kids learn best while moving (read a book to them while they move).  Some kids need near constant motion.  Remember, human brains evolved while in motion.
  • Let kids climb trees – and don’t help them down.  If they get stuck, say “I’ll stand right here, but I won’t do it for you.  Where could you put your foot next?”  Kids need to learn their own limits and become partners in their own safety.
  • Welcome powerful roles.  Kids thrive in powerful roles.  Welcome the superheroes, mommies, teachers, tigers, dragons and tough, physical play.
  • Welcome powerful actions.  Karate chopping boxes, throwing mud at trees, throwing rocks in water, climbing up the slides, making big splashes, jumping on bubble wrap, riding bikes fast, lifting heavy logs or bricks, digging with metal shovels, painting huge cardboard boxes.
  • Set up a Running Room.  Clear a room or basement area for big body action.  Put screens around light bulbs if you have to.  This should be a room where loud, fast, physical risk is welcome.  Small home?  Go outside – even in the rain. – H.S.


51 Responses to Ban Chairs — Not Tag

  1. hineata March 29, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    Wow, this school was lucky to have a spare room to put that sort of stuff in! Though it does sound like an excellent idea….

  2. Emily March 29, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    I read the preview of this book on Amazon, and it sounds awesome. Also, it’s bringing up another memory of my childhood. My mom bought me some picture books, all from a series that was probably written by a team of child psychologists, but at the age of 4-6, I probably didn’t know that. Anyway, there were the “preschool” books, about sharing, the importance of following rules, and so forth. Then, there were some “early elementary” books, about more complicated issues. I had one of the “early elementary” books, about a little boy who had to move to a new house, in a new city, attend a new school, and make all new friends. Also, each of these books was accompanied by an audio tape, that “read” through the book for kids who couldn’t read yet, but also included some songs, to boost comprehension. The song that stands out the most in my mind, is the song from the “Let’s Share” book, and it was about things that were and WEREN’T okay to share. I don’t remember it all, but it went something like this:

    “Will you share your ball? Yes, I will!
    Will you share your swingset? Yes, I will!
    Will you share your too-ooth-brush? No, I won’t, I won’t, I won’t!”

    Anyway, each verse went something like that, with two things that were reasonable to share, and one thing that wasn’t. The “unreasonable to share” items were, I think, “favourite teddy bear,” “toothbrush,” and “parents or your pets.” Now, in hindsight, I’m not sure I agree with that last one, because sometimes, parents spend time with kids who aren’t their own (for example, coaching a sports team or Brownie group other than the child’s, or if the parent is a teacher), and it’s perfectly fine to allow your friends to play with your dog (or whatever) if the animal is amenable to it, but I’m looking at this through an adult lens, and to a small child, it’s easier to start with basic rules, and introduce exceptions later.

    Anyway, the great thing about that song is, it can be extrapolated to other items as the child grows up. It’s kind of liberating knowing that it’s okay for me not to share my clarinet/laptop/iPod/other valuables, if I don’t want to, and that early lesson helped me through some real-life situations as an adult. For example, early in my fourth year of university, the housing gods placed me in an on-campus apartment with three truly evil girls, who were all friends with each other, and told me, repeatedly, that I “wasn’t part of their group,” while using, and ABUSING, my belongings. Initially, I shared willingly, in the interest of promoting roommate cohesion. However, when I found my Gilmore Girls DVD’s left on the floor, not even in their cases, I took them back, and said “no more.” Fortunately, the DVD’s weren’t damaged. Eventually, the other three girls ganged up on me, listed all my faults (such as making normal noise getting ready for class in the morning while they were still sleeping off their hangovers), and essentially forced me to move out. My new roommates weren’t extremely friendly, but at least life was quiet, and my belongings were safe. But anyway, if I’d been raised with the “SHARE!!!!” mentality, I wouldn’t have stood up for myself and taken back my DVD’s, and it might not have even occurred to me that I was worthy of being treated with respect.

    Starting when I was really little, my mom reinforced the lessons of the book/tape combos as well, by not forcing me to “share everything” when I had friends over, but by simply having me put away anything I didn’t want to share. This is also a good lesson–for hosts, don’t “show off” things that you don’t want people to touch (with some exceptions, e.g. artwork that’s just meant to be looked at), and for guests, don’t go poking around in closets, drawers, and rooms with closed doors. I think that series is out of print by now, but I wish it wasn’t, because the idea of teaching kids kindness and generosity tempered with reasonable boundaries, is a pretty good idea.

  3. Emily March 29, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    P.S., As a sort of “epilogue” to the horrible roommate situation, I actually ended up becoming sort-of friends with one of those girls, months later. Towards the end of the school year, after I’d finished my recital, my thesis (I think), and the last of my paintings, I was heading back to my apartment from somewhere, and had a sudden craving for ice cream. I made a U-turn to the bookstore (which was really more like an all-purpose school store), to get myself a Klondike or something (pre-vegan), and I ran into one of my former roommates, who said that she and the other two girls (plus the one who’d moved into my old room) had had a horrible fight, months ago, and were no longer speaking. She then apologized for her behaviour, completely of her own volition, and I accepted and added her on Facebook. We never became close, but we did sort of form an understanding. Ever since that day, I’ve thought, would I still have reconciled with that girl if I hadn’t suddenly wanted an ice cream?

  4. Helen March 29, 2013 at 2:36 am #

    Thanks for introducing me to Heather – I’ve just spent a nice hour or so reading through her blog and nodding my head a lot. Just like I do when I read yours, Lenore!

  5. KMary March 29, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    Something mentioned in this article is my biggest fear as my oldest enters Kindergarten this Fall: the idea that movement doesn’t equal bad behavior. My son is sweet, smart, creative and does not have attention issues. But he is active. As active as they come. He is also very physically capable. Last year when he was barely 4 years old, he climbed to the very top of a 25 foot tree in a matter of about 3 minutes. He also got back down himself without my help, much to the shock and fear of my neighbor watching. But back to my point, I have some concerns that I’m going to hear how he “can’t sit still” and that somehow he’ll be seen as a badly-behaved kid when, honestly, he’s far from it! He goes to a play-centered preschool now and loves every second of it, but I’m nervous he won’t have the same fondness for Kindergarten. The good news is we don’t live in a district where recess is disappearing, so here’s hoping…

  6. Earth.W March 29, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    Let kids play! 🙂

  7. Susan March 29, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    One thing I love about your FRK blog is that it gives me a good confidence boost that what I am doing is not wrong. I have always let my kids wrestle. A lot of the times when they wrestle, they start fighting at some point, then go back to wrestling and on and on.

    I have always ignored it because I grew up in a large Irish Catholic family in an area full of large Catholic families. We all roughhoused and wrestled all of the time and I have many fond memories of it.

    I go camping with friends (who do not live in our area) a couple of times a year. My best friend is always horrified when my younger two are wrestling. “Aren’t you going to stop that?!” It completely stresses her out. I admit to having second-thoughts at times about letting my kids wrestle because of her reaction. Now, I can tell her, “Oh, they’re just strengthening their frontal lobes.”

    I’d be interested in hearing from moms of boys about how they handle wrestling when friends come over. This was never an issue when my daughters had friends over. When my 7 year old son has friends over, it inevitably leads to wrestling. I think it is great, but I am always paranoid if one of his friends ends up with a minor injury, that all the other moms will be saying, “What was she thinking letting them fight like that?”

  8. CWH March 29, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    I had to laugh at the “read to them while they move” and “let them climb trees” comments, because my son is notorious for climbing trees and reading books while dangling high up in the branches. The very tippy-top of playsets is another common reading spot for him.

    All 3 of my kids climb. No child who has ever visited our house has been able to equal my kids’ climbing abilities. :)I’ve had many a parent watching them do it nervously, and not allow their child to follow. It used to make me feel like I was the negligent one, but now I see that I’m not crazy.

  9. Coccinelle March 29, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    This post should mandatory to read by everyone on the planet!!!

  10. Tracy March 29, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    While I cautiously agree that kids need to move, I always cringe when I read things about boys’ specific needs. I have 2 sons who are NOT very athletic. As a consequence, they now do not enjoy games and sport, because they have already learned that they are not “good” at it. Continually encouraging boys to be in physical competition without any sort of skill-teaching just seems so wrong to me. Physical prowess is NOT always a natural thing. No one hands a child a book and says “just read it” without teaching reading. But everyone expects a child to be able to run long distances, throw, catch, etc. without ever teaching the skills. (Full disclosure: this goes back a generation. I hated the one day a year we were supposed to do as many sit ups and pushups as we could — without ever having done any the rest of the year.)

  11. Nicole March 29, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    “I’d be interested in hearing from moms of boys about how they handle wrestling when friends come over.”

    Susan, I just send them outside! I figure they’re far less likely to get hurt out on the open grass than in the house where there are more things to bump into.

    To the original post – Amen! Kids need balance, just as we all do. And time to move is just as important as time to sit still.

  12. Emily March 29, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    @Tracy–How old are your boys? Have you ever thought of taking them to the playground, to just enjoy playing on the swings, slides, etc., or to the swimming pool, to just enjoy moving around in the water, playing with the toys, jumping off the diving board, etc.? There are probably a lot more things you can do with them that are movement-oriented, but don’t require a lot of skill, like going for a family hike or bike ride, playing in the snow, or even signing them up for the much-scorned kids’ yoga classes. I helped run one of those for Family Day here (I’m from Ontario), and I was really impressed, because part of the yoga routine was essentially a pantomime of baking a birthday cake, through stretching movements, and the kids got really into it. My point is, I grew up thinking I didn’t like physical activity either, when the problem was, I just didn’t like competition, or being belittled (by kids AND teachers) for my lack of athletic ability. Once I grew up, and discovered that there were options for non-competitive physical activity, I started to enjoy it.

  13. AW13 March 29, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    My dad always talks about one of the priests’ approaches to fights when he was in school (back in the 1950s). Apparently, if boys began fighting on the playground, this guy would offer them the chance to box each other, then give them gloves, a little instruction, and let them go. My dad said that it was a great way for boys to work out their energy and anger without really hurting anyone, particularly the 6 and 7 year olds, who had a hard time even maneuvering their arms with the boxing gloves!

    It has been my experience that my high school boy students also moved a lot more than the girls – jostling each other when they passed in the classroom, getting up to sharpen pencils, high-fiving, etc. Whenever I asked for volunteers to be my scribe and write corrections on the board, it was almost always boys who wanted the job.

    Anyway, my husband and I have been debating the merits of a preschool program for kiddo this fall. He’s lonely, so I want to find a place for him to interact with other kids his own age, but I’m on the fence as to whether a traditional preschool program is a good fit for him. I’m going to check out Heather’s blog and book and see what I think. I’ve never come across a preschool that is play-based, rather than academic-based, but I like the idea!

    P.S. Tracy, I agree with you: catching, throwing, kicking, running, etc. are skills that have to be taught and practiced. I think boys are just more likely to move around, period, than girls. (I notice that my son switches position or moves from the couch, to his chair, to the floor, then back again, all the time while he’s reading – it’s almost as though he needs to let off some kinetic energy in order to keep focused on the book.) Probably they are encouraged to practice active skills more than girls are, but that’s supposition on my part.

  14. CWH March 29, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    @Tracy: ‘active’ does not have to equal ‘competitive’. This is a lesson that I myself did not learn until I was well into my twenties, and even today when I exercise I usually prefer to do it alone so I can go at my own pace and not feel pressured to measure up to those around me.

    My son is much the same. He has always been squirmy but he is not competitive at all. But he still enjoys being active; he climbs, he rides his bike, we hike and ski together.

  15. Captain America March 29, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    God, I agree entirely with this!

    It’s damn tough being a boy in grade school. Women running the show have no idea.

    It made me believe that the Establishment running the place were the teachers and my girl classmates. . . and the boys were on the outs.

    Used to get into scuffles and fights after school like people nowadays couldn’t believe. . . no one really getting hurt, but just a physical thing.

  16. Captain America March 29, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    You know, one reason why I was an altar boy was because it gave me something to do during mass! 🙂

  17. Michelle G March 29, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    This is one of my favorite posts so far. I too have a boy (he is now 17) who was very active, but did not have attention issues. I remember when he came home from 3rd grade and told me 3rd grade was dumb because they could go outside for recess but they couldn’t run because someone could fall down. I can’t imagine putting 60-70 7 & 8 year olds outside and telling them not to run (my sympathy to the teacher who had to teach them when they came back in). That rule was quickly changed as was the atmosphere in the classroom. My kids are very indepentent and I am truly believe it is because they had freedom to play, ride bikes, horse around and figure things out for themselves when they were young. Thanks for such a great blog!

  18. Sarah in WA March 29, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    Love this post! However,

    “During book talks I give, men in the audience often approach me and confide that they grew up being told they were ‘bad’ simply because their bodies needed to move. It’s even worse in this generation. Moving has become misbehavior.”

    I respectfully disagree. I don’t think it’s worse across the board for this generation. When I was substitute teaching, I saw a couple of classrooms with exercise balls instead of chairs. There was even a scheduled “bounce break” in those classrooms. My notes sometimes included instructions like “Allow Bobby to stand at his desk while working. He has a hard time with sitting.”

    A generation ago, I don’t think I would have seen accommodations like that at all. I think of stories of the old one-room school houses and how kids were slapped on the hand with a ruler if they were fidgeting. I actually think things are better now in some respects.

    Granted, the disappearance of recess is not helping.

    And most schools would see rough play as too much of a liability. If someone does get hurt, it falls back on the school for allowing it to happen. 🙁

  19. Stephanie March 29, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    My son is mostly one of the quiet boys. He has trouble interacting with other boys his age because they all play too rough for him at school. Fortunately, he found his own ways to cope. He loves running and soccer. I figure the soccer is really good for him, as he’s slowly learning to cope with the more physical side of interacting with boys his own age. He still often backs off when someone else charges the ball, but he’s getting better at trying to keep it or get it from someone else once in a while.

    My oldest daughter is the tree climber in the family. She even taught a neighbor teen girl how to climb, to the disappointment of the girl’s mother, who told me she had hoped her daughter would never learn to climb trees. Too bad!

  20. JTW March 29, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    1) why the heck a special room for kids to be active in? Aren’t there hallways, school yards, playgrounds? Isn’t there PT class several times a week? And if those things don’t exist, why not?
    2) as stated, many boys aren’t alpha males and constantly trying to be physically competitive. The small, quiet, bullied kid does need shelter from being forced into a physically competitive environment, academic pursuits need to be encouraged and stimulated for them.
    3) a missed point: take away the standard and automatic ADHD diagnosis for any kid who’s not a couch potatoe. And stop drugging 50%+ of our kids into a permanent state of stupor, then complain when they grow obese.

  21. Nicole March 29, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    This is great. To one of the points above, whether it’s “worse” now, who knows. I felt lucky as my boys had many male teachers, but their rooms were often seen as “out of control” as they did give wiggle breaks and let the kids move around more. My husband even sees coaches who get mad if someone is juggling a soccer ball while the coach is talking – not realizing some kids learn better when they are moving (Akeelah and the Bee was such a great example of that)

    Running in hallways was definitely not allowed in preschool, and it’s nice to be able to separate the kids who want to sit and play quietly and those who want to jump around inside. But I totally agree on #3 above, although obesity problems encompass more than this.

  22. Don Berg March 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    My rule as a caregiver around trees has always been that I would not help them up but I would help them down. And even when I help them down I gauge their level of fear and encourage down climbing before I go for a full rescue. This policy ensures that they are building skills but also allows for a compassionate response. I doubt that most people would refuse to help a child who has clearly reach a state of terror, but it’s important to be clear that the relationship is more important than the skills.

    @Tracy: This is not true: “No one hands a child a book and says “just read it” without teaching reading.”

    Your comment is partly right if the “without teaching reading” part is interpreted as meaning never, but I interpreted it to mean beforehand.

    But the first part is false, in any case, because I have done just that as a private teacher homeschooling other people’s kids and would encourage others to do so under the right circumstances. The reason I did that is because I wanted to ensure that the child I was responding to actually had the motivation to learn if I was going to invest the time and energy in teaching those skills. When they ask for help I give it, but I don’t presume that instruction is necessary.

    Reading is, in fact, perfectly learnable without anyone teaching it. There are children who do that all the time. Democratic school staff such as Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA, or Summerhill in the UK, and homeschoolers, too, could tell you lots of stories about children who taught themselves to read.

    But your real point is well taken, sometimes kids benefit from instruction when they don’t take to an activity naturally. I make it a policy to ensure that the motivation for learning is in place before I provide instruction.

    In fact, my strategy on helping with tree climbing is a reflection of that policy. Kids who truly have the motivation to climb the tree will learn how and my assisting them is going to hinder more than help them learn. On the other hand experiencing terror at the prospect of falling on the way down is more of a barrier to learning than my fetching them. If they are terrorized then they are unlikely to climb anymore at all and the skills will be lost or never found. Kids don’t want to be dependent on adults, so they will learn to climb down eventually if they experience the challenges without too much distress.

  23. Crystal March 29, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    I could not love this post anymore. A couple of thoughts: as a homeschooler, I often did my schoolwork in a tree, on my stomach….never ever sitting down for hours in a row. I truly think it helped me graduate early with honors when I eventually did attend public school/university.

    Then, I became a sub for the local school district. It never occurred to me to NOT let my kids run around, until a performance review. “Your methods are slightly unorthodox,” my supervisor told me, “but they work.” 🙂

  24. Jana March 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    I am at VBS counselor. They had our year olds in a bible study lesson. I’m 15, the other counselor was in her 40s(with 3 estranged teenaged children). A few of the kids wanted to jog in place or stand during the lesson. I greed that was absolutely fine but she flipped out on them. Way too many people vilify kids who are being kids and not bothering anybody. It’s a little ridiculous how structured life is. I have tons of spring break homework and guess what, the three hours I spend rushing my work on Easter Sunday will likely not benefit me.

  25. mollie March 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm #


    I had a friend like the one you describe. At the time I knew her, I was a single mom to a 6-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl, and she had a 5-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl. Whenever we’d get together as a group, the boys immediately went at it, wrestling on the ground. She was enormously uncomfortable with this, and kept urging them to stop. I tried to convince her that it’s actually healthy for young boys to roughhouse, but at the time, I didn’t have any authorities to cite on the matter, and I often found myself wanting to appease her, and to protect our friendship rather than the boys’ freedom to play as they wanted.

    Now my son is 12, and we got rid of all of our sofas and chairs in favour of very durable bean bags. We set up a heavy bag (boxing equipment) in his room, and we encourage all the kids (we have four, ranging in age from 6 – 12) to rough and tumble. Inevitably, there are injuries, and tears (always the girls), but we wave them off and they go back and play again. My husband sometimes laments the shrieking, but I just tell him to turn down his hearing aids.

    If you can’t let kids play rough, get out of parenting (kind of like “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” idea). Nearly all kids have an impulse to have some high-energy playing (it’s not always wrestling, but being chased is usually a fave). To shut that down, or to forbid it, or to constantly resist it as an adult is to deny the essence of something very real and natural in a kid’s development. Look a tigers and lions and monkeys. See how they roughhouse as youngsters? Why would we be any different, really?

  26. lollipoplover March 29, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    Susan and mollie-

    I also had a boy who would wind up wrestling his friends for fun at age 4 and I wasn’t quite sure what to do- my parenting motto being don’t make a happy child happier, and they were clearly happy wrestling! We nevered watched wrestling or exposed him to this type of activity- he was clearly born with it.
    He also was never into the sports the other kids played (though he now loves all ball sports) and when he was 5 he saw a wrestling poster for a local group- he wanted to sign up. He’s wrestled competitively for 6 years now (just in the winter) and recently won the varsity title for his division. The motto on the wall where he trains (hard) is “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” -Dan Gamble

    He takes this to heart and has no fear of trying new things, not caring if he’s good or not. Only one person wins in wrestling- you must become a good loser (and learn from your mistakes).
    Besides, wrestling has been around since the beginning of mankind- it’s one of the original Olympic sports. Just as I wouldn’t suppress a child with artistic tendencies, I wouldn’t try to contain a young boy (or girl) who loves the physical challenge of wrestling.
    And you don’t need a special room- we just push the coffee table back and let the games begin!

  27. Stephanie March 29, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    I’m a little concerned that the comments mostly talk about boys. Whether intentionally or unconsciously I don’t think enough girls are encouraged to roughhouse and be active. My husband roughhouses with our daughter and people tell us we’re treating her too much like a boy. People complain about their boys being a handful, but our daughter is constantly moving and people don’t believe me when I talk about how exhausting she can be. We have grills on the windows and when she started climbing them, we built her a climbing wall to channel that energy. People are surprised we went through that much trouble for a girl. Maybe not as many girls want to wrestle as boys, but I think just as many of them want to run and jump and be active in other ways if given the opportunity.

  28. Donald March 29, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    I LOVE IT!

    More and more people are starting to understand this.

    We all want kids to be safe. More and more people are learning that raising kids in a bubble wrapped way is actually dangerous!

    Prepare children for the path. If you instead prepare the path for children you teach them to be dependent on others. (sometimes in a dangerous way)

  29. AW13 March 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    @KMary: Can my little boy come and play with your little boy? 🙂

    @Stephanie: That’s a fair point. If I had to guess, Id say that since girls can generally sit still better (even high energy ones), they are not seen as having a problem and therefore, no one really thinks about it. I was a very active little girl, my dad and I wrestled quite a bit, we played soccer, we ran races, and I can’t even count up the number of hours he helped me practice basketball. My parents even installed a basketball hoop for me, since I loved it that much. But I agree that this is not the norm for how little girls are socialized.

  30. Sarah in WA March 29, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    I have to laugh because we had lunch with friends today, and, looking around, it was the girls who were having the hardest time with sitting through the meal. (All of the kids were around age 3.) Of course, my boys are very motivated by food. 🙂

    So yes, Stephanie raises a fair point!

  31. Genny C March 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

    One year my class of 4 and 5 yr olds was 7 girls and 14 boys. The energy of that class was through the roof! There were days we stopped what ever activity we were trying to do and went out to the tennis courts to run for 10 min! And trying to get 10 4 yr old boys NOT to be rough and tumble was not happening…so we set rules. On the grass (for safety), walk away if you don’t want to play anymore, no complaining to the teacher about it, and we only wanted to know if there was blood. All the parents were on board and you know what…we never heard a complaint, a tear, and only once or twice saw blood from a scrapped up knee! It was a crazy class, but fun. And when they had the chance to run, and jump, and yell, we did better in the classroom too. It is something I always remember as a great learning experience for me as a young teacher…academics are great, but LEARNING is more, for all of us.

  32. Kevin March 29, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    This article reminded me of the game “Rough House Soccer” from school Gym class.
    Rough House Soccer was great.It was played indoors on your knees, on mats,and there were No Rules, except stay on the mat and your knees. It was even better when it was co-ed.
    Then there was “Bombardment”. Each team took half the Gym and you couldn’t cross the center.Where you then tried to nail the other opponents with basketballs to eliminate them from the game until no one was left on one of the teams.The last person had to move quite a bit.Those games would never be allowed today.

  33. CrazyCatLady March 29, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    My step sister is 3 months older than I am, my step brother is 9 months younger. To my mom, we were basically triplets. Around age 12 or 13, my step sister and I started wrestling with each other and my step brother. I notice that now my daughter is the same age, she is more physical with her younger brothers too.

    Boys seem to pick it up earlier, as this article says. And I WILL let my boys do it more, as they both need the frontal lobe executive function control to increase!

    I will never help my kids to climb, and have the motto (from my mother, the day my brother had me climb back down and tell her she needed to call the fire department to get him down,) that if you can get up, you can get down. My mother was known to go inside when we started climbing trees. We loved to hang upside down 30 or more feet up in the air, and she hated to watch. Rather than tell us no, we just went inside. We did always hang upside down where there was a V, so that we could hook our legs under so there was absolutely no chance of falling while hanging. (It was the getting into and out of position that was more at risk.)

  34. CrazyCatLady March 29, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    Rough and tumble = wrestling. It does not equal fighting, which involves anger. Rough and tumble is kids agreeing together to do the wresting. It is not the same as bullying, which is where one child is always the instigator and the other can’t say no.

  35. Jenny Islander March 30, 2013 at 12:44 am #

    I think the best new toy of the past 10 years is the kind of computer game where you have to get up and move in order to make it go. When the wind chill is in the frostbite zone, we can put in something that gets kids’ blood moving while providing a “window” to someplace outside the house. The preschooler isn’t climbing all over the tween and the primary kid isn’t overwhelming the preschooler because they are all playing against the computer. Their current favorite doesn’t even require taking turns. They stand in front of the video pickup and a picture of them in our living room appears on the TV screen. Then buildings start to grow on our living room floor and the kids get to stomp around “destroying” them and going RAAAAR.

    This was their only Christmas present last year and they still love it.

  36. socalledauthor March 30, 2013 at 1:24 am #

    My son, not quite three, is a rather active little guy. But he’s certainly on the lower end of physical capability (does NOT climb). He runs and hops and just plain wiggles wiggles wiggles.

    I’ll watch him sometimes as he does a “still” activity, like paying on the iPad. While his face his bent over the screen, with iPad on the floor, he will stand, crouch, dance, bend, and otherwise have the whole rest of him in motion. Yet, he is intensely focused on the game. I think it’s amusing, yet I do worry that he will have trouble in school just because he’s moving so much. I know some teachers understand that movement in itself is not inherently distracting– and, if they’re like me, think that people of all ages need to learn how to tune benign movement out to focus themselves… but I worry that he’ll get a teacher who doesn’t know this or practice it. One who thinks that moving is a sign of attention problems, and s/he won’t see that my son is paying attention just fine (it’s like the front end is working and the back end is fidgeting.)

    I try not to worry much, since he’s got some time before school, and he tends to be much more subdued around other people (as in anyone who isn’t me) but still. Articles like this both reassure me that my son is okay while poking that niggling fear that we may have trouble in years to come. (Given how much trouble I had in school as a good, quiet kid who was just bored out of my skull, I can only image adding perpetual motion to the mix.)

  37. Let_Her_Eat_Dirt March 30, 2013 at 5:29 am #

    This is GREAT! I LOVE that Heather’s preschool had mats and boxing gloves! What a great idea! Thank you for posting this — I can’t wait to get the book!

    I sometimes feel like an ogre parent or a subversive because I’m constantly telling my kids things that are the opposite of what their school or other parents tell them. Sharing is great — within reason. I don’t want my girls to be pushovers. Being gentle is fine — within reason. I don’t want my girls to be wimps. Quiet play is fine — within reason. I don’t want my girls to think that being meek is always good.

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    One dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  38. Nursey March 30, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    My son, (now age 33), and his friend used to tumble around out on the grass outside. I remember thinking, “they look like a couple of pups!” Nobody got hurt, but if they did get a little bump, there were popcicles and hugs just inside the door.

    It’s sad to think that kids aren’t allowed that any more… Our lawn outside is so quiet these days….

  39. Sky March 30, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    I agree with this to some extent, but you know, 50 years ago kids were expected to sit still and listen to the teacher and not flop around while being instructed also, and there wasn’t this parental outcry about how terribly difficult it was for kids to do. So what’s changed? Not the activity levels of kids. The primary change is in school discipline. The second is that the school day has been lengthened . The third is that recess has been shortened and so-called “violent” play discouraged during recess. And of course preschool was not a norm if it existed at all; it was understood kids should be at least five or six before starting formal schooling. We put kids in school too soon and too long, but once a kid is in school, *in the classroom* it’s not unreasonable to expect that they not be juggling soccer balls and running circles around the classroom or each doing a different thing while the teacher is teaching. That IS distracting. That said, you can incorporate class-wide standing up and hand motions and chanting as a regular part of the instruction, as classical schools do, which keeps the kids physical and yet maintains order at the same time, because everyone is working in unison.

  40. Sky March 30, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    “I’d be interested in hearing from moms of boys about how they handle wrestling when friends come over”
    98% of my friends don’t have a problem with wrestling. For the 2% that do, I just say, “We allow that.” If it involves my kids, it’s not up to them to nix it. If it involves their kids, and they don’t want it, then they can tell their kids to stop wrestling. Now, if we are at their house, then I respect the homeowner and follow their rules while there and tell my kids no wrestling while there. But, honestly, when our friends and I get together, we don’t really supervise our kids. They are outside or downstairs, and we are in the kitchen yaking, so we don’t really know if they are even wrestling. Our kids are older, though, 5 and up.

  41. Sky March 30, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    “While I cautiously agree that kids need to move, I always cringe when I read things about boys’ specific needs”

    I do too, mainly because my daughter is about five times as active as my son.

    “My dad always talks about one of the priests’ approaches to fights”

    Did they preface it by saying, “We’re going to settle this the way Christ Jesus intended, with fists and gloves!” in an Irish brogue?

    “I’ve never come across a preschool that is play-based, rather than academic-based, but I like the idea!”

    Most “Mother’s Day Out” programs are more play-based than academic based. Look for something called “Mother’s Day Out” rather than preschool. They do a small amount of academics and being read stories and singing in groups, but they spend more time free playing with toys and playing on the playground. They do learn to count and the alphabet and one plus one and maybe the beginning letter sounds, but that’s about it.

    “because they could go outside for recess but they couldn’t run because someone could fall down”

    My daughter was told this in kindergarten. I contacted the teacher and said, “Sometimes kids tell you things that aren’t quite true. Surely this cannot be correct. Surely she cannot be prohibited from running

  42. Jenny Islander March 30, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    “never come across a preschool that is play-based”

    . . . Holy crap.

  43. Donna March 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    “The second is that the school day has been lengthened .”

    My child’s school day is no longer than mine was in the 70s. I went to school from 9-4. My child goes to school from 7:45 – 2:25, so actually slightly LESS time. Some areas that were once half-day kindergartens have shifted to full day but both half-day and full-day kindergartens have always existed as long as kindergarten has existed. One is not now nor has it ever been universal.

    “And of course preschool was not a norm if it existed at all”

    I went to preschool in the early 70s as did many other children that I knew.

    I do think lack of discipline at school and at home is a problem. And limited recess, PE, art, music, etc. Expecting a child to concentrate on academics for small chunks of time with breaks in between is one thing; expecting them to sit still for 7 straight hours and concentrate is another. In fact, I can’t sit still for 7 hours and concentrate. I take breaks at work. Get up and walk around. Chat with coworkers.

    Mostly I think the difference is what we talk about here. Even outside of school, kids have absolutely no free time to burn off energy. Free ranging is too dangerous. Free play too unstructured. So instead, after hours of being in school, they are shuttled to activities where even the active ones require a lot of standing around and waiting your turn. (I am not anti-classes. In fact, I am pro-them if the child is interested. They just can’t consume all the time after school).

    Kids have always been expected to be still for much of the 6-7 hours of the school day but could let lose once school got out. Now they need to be still 24 hours of the day.

  44. Emily March 30, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    @Kevin–We played something like “bombardment” when I was in early elementary school, except we used Nerf balls. If we’d had to play that game with basketballs, I probably would have sat out, because I was unco-ordinated and unathletic, I wasn’t popular, so I would have been an easy target, and getting hit with a basketball HURTS.

  45. Warren March 30, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    I used to get the same reactions from my inlaws about rough housing with my daughters.
    When one of my girls would come running into the room and dive on me, they would chastise her for not being a lady. That girls don’t play that way.

    I took the opportunity to remind my inlaws, that back when that was the norm, women didn’t work, drive or vote either.

  46. emilia embarazada March 31, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    man emily you need a few months in a foreign country or something before you have any kids cuz you are way too invested

  47. emilia embarazada March 31, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    by the way “uncoordinated” is one word don’t be throwin them hyphens in up outta nowhere

  48. Amanda Matthews March 31, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    “We put kids in school too soon and too long, but once a kid is in school, *in the classroom* it’s not unreasonable to expect that they not be juggling soccer balls and running circles around the classroom or each doing a different thing while the teacher is teaching. That IS distracting.”

    Another thing that has changed is that class sizes have grown. If 5 people are doing something out of 10, that’s not as distracting as 15 people out of 30. And if you have time for a teacher and 1 student to focus on each other while the others fidget or etc. it is still possible to learn, but with 30 kids that becomes impossible.

    @Donna Go back more generations… Or think about the fact that with recess being reduced or eliminated, and less of various breaks throughout the day, they use to be sitting still for 4 – 5 hours a day, and now they are sitting still for 6 – 7.

  49. Lisa April 1, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    I’m actually pretty sure that my daughter’s school day is a bit *shorter* than when I was a kid (I was in school 8:30-3, her day is 8:15 – 2:15), and they spend more of it in “breaks” from learning than in anything productive Between lunch, snack, recess 2x/day, PE/art/music/library (which is valuable learning time, but *not* spent sitting at a desk, and takes time just shuffling the class to and from), plus the excessive number of half days or days off, they seem to spend very little time on actual academics. Probably at *most* 5 hours/day. The way I see it, that’s very little time to spend on academics… assuming 8 hours of sleep, that’s 11 hours per day of free time. if a kid spends an hour or so learning outside of school (homework, studying, etc), an hour or so on personal care, and a couple of hours on other responsibilities, that’s 7 whole hours of time every single day to spend on things they enjoy. Who doesn’t wish they had that?!

    I want my kid to run, play, read, and do all of the many things she enjoys – scheduled and unscheduled. i do not, however, have a problem with expecting her to refrain from distracting her classmates during the school day.

    For parents looking for play based preschool, look into schools that incorporate the Reggio-Emilio philosophy. Child-directed and play based.

  50. Emily April 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    @Lisa–Kids might have 7 hours a day of free time, in theory, but in practice, that gets filled up with organized activities, and an increasing load of homework, because apparently the public school curriculum is more difficult than it was when I was in it from 1989 (kindergarten) to 2003 (finished OAC).

  51. Emily April 1, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    @Emilia–I actually lived in Australia for two years, and found from babysitting, volunteering with the Girl Guides, and just general observations, that kids are given a lot more freedom there than they are in North America.