Every parent has heard this when kids gather to play: “Be careful. Don’t play too rough.” But research shows that rough-and-tumble play is good for kids. Here’s why:  

  • #1: Roughhousing makes kid smart. Studies show that physical play releases a chemical that stimulates the growth of neurons, especially in the regions of the brain responsible for memory, language, and logic. 

  • Roughhousing also builds emotional intelligence. Lawrence Cohen wrote the book The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It. And he says that physical play requires kids to recognize when they’ve crossed the line from fun to uncomfortable. Which means, rough-and-tumble play helps kids learn to read social cues, and teaches empathy. 

  • And here’s something that surprises a lot of parents: Roughhousing makes kids more likable. Physical games like tag require leadership and negotiation skills. They also teach kids to agree, to take turns, and to accept it when they lose - which are 3 traits we appreciate in our adult friends. 

  • Finally: Roughhousing is fun. MRI imaging shows that the areas of the brain that control physical play overlap with the ones responsible for feeling joy. But you don’t need an MRI to prove that. All you have to do is take your children to the park – and watch them laugh and squeal with delight while they play rough-and-tumble games.