Tag Archives: rough and tumble

Camp Akela R & T

IMG_1030There was a lot of rough-and-tumble play at Camp Akela last weekend. Camp Akela is the summer Cub Scout camp for the Northwest District of the Boy Scouts of America. It was my son’s first year, and we plan to make it a tradition.

Cub Scout camp is packed with many wonderful planned activities that fit in the rough-and-tumble/big body category. I’ve provided some pictures of the obstacle course and a game called “finger fencing.” **

Of course, besides the planned activities, there was down time as well, much of which was filled with all manner of boys wresting, chasing, tackling, rolling down steep hills, running down hills until they fell and sometimes just laying in a pile together.

IMG_1024It was very cool to see the boys practicing the unwritten rules of rough-and-tumble play. They naturally stopped when it got too rough or someone wasn’t having fun. They pushed harder and tested each other’s strength in a friendly way. They assessed the risk of an activity and pulled back when it was too much.

Most of all it was wonderful to see relationships develop between boys who didn’t know each other as they joined with others in rough-and-tumble play. In this kind of play, you become friends by showing that you respect the other person enough to play empathically, up to the level of physicality that the other person is comfortable with.

At no time during the weekend did I see any boys angry or crying because other boys hurt them. There were times when it got too rough, and they boys backed off, still friends.

IMG_1043There was one exception to this. My son came up to me after leaving a large game of ultimate soccer. In this game, there are many balls, all the boys play together, and dads were playing with the boys. My son didn’t seem too upset, but I could tell he was intentionally leaving the game. When I asked him what happened he said that another dad made him fall down hard by sweeping his feet out from under him.

Intentional or not, this dad wasn’t following the rules of rough-and-tumble play. He was too big to be playing that hard. However, even situations like this highlight a benefit of rough-and-tumble play. My son got the chance to assess his feeling of personal safety, self-regulate his involvement and choose a different activity.

Thanks to all of the staff at Camp Akela this summer. Looking forward to seeing you again next year.

IMG_1052** In finger fencing, two players grasp hands with index fingers pointing out. The goal is to use your finger to touch your opponent without being touched. It doesn’t count to touch the arm that is grasping your opponent’s hand.


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I watched Star Wars with my oldest son yesterday afternoon after days (maybe months) of requests to do so. Of course, he wanted to play “lightsabers” afterward. I’ve moved past the debate about whether or not this kind of media and follow up play teaches kids to be violent. The jury is in on that topic, and the verdict is: wake up. Children’s physical, social, and emotional development is much more complex than that.

During our follow up light-saber battle (which was postponed until dinner was eaten, dishes were done, and rooms were tidied) I tried to follow my son’s lead as much as possible. I wanted to see where he would go with it. We used Nerf™ brand foam swords, which I love, because they let the boys experience the painful natural consequence of hitting too hard without anyone getting really hurt. Truthfully, there are very few more effective ways to teach gentleness.

If one of us maneuvered past the other’s blocks and made contact with a body part, the “injured” player had to stop using that body part. To get the use of that body part back, we designated the basement step as the goal. We had lots of laughs watching each other hop, creep, slide, and inch our way over to the step.

Tiring of that, my son made a new innovation. After making contact and “cutting off” an arm, leg, butt, etc., the swordsman had to flip the sword over, grab the blade, and “heal” the other player by touching him with the handle of the sword. After being healed, both players resumed full “health” and participation.

How profoundly this one simple rule of play demonstrated the difference between violence and rough-and-tumble play. Violence is vicious, self-serving, and hurtful. Sport and rough-and-tumble play recognize the importance of caring and keeping all players in the game. The wisdom of many traditions teaches that our wholeness is often, sometimes only, found by being wounded. Even more so by healing and being healed.


Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Present Moment Parenting


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