20 Fun Ways to Roughhouse with Your Kids

June 26th, 2015 by Dionna | 2 Comments
Posted in natural parenting, Strive for Balance, Use Nurturing Touch

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To strengthen your parent-child relationship and lay a solid foundation for great sibling relationships, Dr. Markham recommends in Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life that parents do 15 minutes of roughhousing with their kids every day. Not only does roughhousing build your relationships, it also helps kids (and adults!) release stress and anxiety.

Below are 20 ideas you can try with your kids. Remember to take it slow – go at your child’s pace. The idea isn’t to frighten your child, it’s to get them laughing by invoking a very mild fear response. It’s important when roughhousing to read your child’s cues, and to make sure everyone understands that they can stop (and tell others to stop) when they feel done. Respect your child when they say “no” or “stop,” let them know they can trust you.

I’m sharing these ideas with the ages of my kids in mind (3 and 7 years as I write this); tweak them as necessary for your own children.

1. Hide and Seek

This one is easy. If it’s dark, you can use flashlights (my kids’ favorite way to play). Of course the parent must chase the kids back to bed (or base) as soon as you find them.

2. Monster

You can make this one monster or dinosaur or dog or whatever will give your kids a little thrill of fear as you chase them (and gently catch them) time after time. Be sure to bumble around a little so the kids can struggle free, then you can start all over.

3. Tug of War

Find a soft place to land, grab a rope (or a pair of jeans), and tug away!

4. Blanket Swing

Get a blanket that isn’t too stretchy, let your little sit in the middle, and each adult grab the corners of opposite ends. Swing the blanket back and forth high enough to get a giggle, then flop the blanket, kid and all, onto a bed or couch.

5. Straight Leg Tag

This is basically a version of “Monster” in our house. Parent chases kid around the house/yard, but you walk without bending your knees. If kids want, they can be “it” if parent catches them.

6. Charades

Charades in itself isn’t a roughhousing game, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it one! Try a team charades, where team members work together to give clues for fun answers. Try these:

sumo wrestling
pirate fighting
lion hunting a gazelle
totem pole

7. Dance Party

Dance parties are an excellent way to burn off energy and shake your sillies out! Dance together, dance alone, learn a dance routine (my 7 year old and I have been learning the Thriller dance from YouTube videos). Just dance!

8. Pillow Tackle

We have to be really careful with pillow fights in our house, because the three year old tends to get rambunctious and ends up injuring herself or someone else. We have better luck when we do “pillow tackle,” which is when the kids have pillows, the adults don’t, and the kids try to tackle the adults with the pillows. Watch out, though, adults can steal the pillows and gently tackle kids too!

9. Horsey Rides

Also known as “bucking broncos” when the horses are feeling rambunctious. Put the kids on your back and giddy up!


10. Wrestle

Who says roughhousing has to have a fancy name? Just wrestle. Make some ground rules and go!

11. Tickle Tunnel

I’m not a fan of tickling kids – it causes kids to feel powerless and it does not promote bodily autonomy (read more on tickling here). But with Tickle Tunnel (and the next game, Tickle Tree), kids are given the power to decide how often and how long they are tickled. The parent stands with legs apart and hands at the ready to tickle any child who goes between their legs. The kids approach the parents, getting just as close as they’d like to and staying as long as they want. Parents can’t move their hands/arms/legs, they can only tickle when the kids move into them, and the tickling is light and gentle – no grabbing. This lets the kids be in control of the game.

12. Tickle Tree

Tickle Tree is just a variation of the tunnel. Instead of standing with legs apart, parents can sit with arms up or stand with arms down like branches. Your arms are the branches with tickling leaves, your child can come dance around you, try to climb you, or even try to chop you down – but you can’t move anything except your fingers.

13. Eat Them

You know how when your kids are babies, you love them so much you could eat them up? Now’s your chance! Don’t tickle – the anticipation of being “eaten” and pretending is enough for a giggle-fest.

14. Airplane

Parents lay down on a soft surface, bringing their knees to their chests. Kids hop on their knees for an airplane ride. Depending on your child’s size (and your strength), you can also try this with them on your feet – but be careful and gentle, all of their weight is being held up on their little chests.

15. The Claw

Take a page from Liar, Liar and channel your inner Jim Carey. As much as I love Cary Elwes, this is one time you don’t want to emulate him. Again, this isn’t a tickle game, go for scary-fun “I’m gonna getcha” action.

16. Chop Down the Trees

I line my kids up at the foot of the bed and chop them down. They can choose how they fall (ax, chainsaw, or regular saw), then can choose what kind of tree they are, I might even attack them as a bear or a hive of bees.

17. Catch Fish

Let the kids “splash” around on the bed. When they get close enough to the edge (you can lay low and hide or not, but hiding is more fun!), grab their legs and reel them in. Make sure they are the fish that get away more often than not, but feel free to fry them and eat them at the end.

18. Indoor Sledding

Have the kids hop on a blanket and slide them around on the floor. For safer rides, have them grab the bottom corners of the blanket and make a little pocket for themselves. We especially love to get on the wooden floor, I swing them in circles and around curves as fast as I dare.

19. Arm Pulls and Squeezes

I actually read about this in the context of helping kids work through anger and frustration, but my kids love to do it anytime. Parents spread their hands out, palms facing each other. Kids try to push their hands together while parents resist. Alternatively, touch your palms together and let kids try to pull your hands apart. Give kids a turn too!

20. Steamroller

Have kids lay down on a soft surface. Parent gently rolls over kids, then everyone gets a turn.1

How do you and your kids roughhouse? Leave your ideas in the comments!


*Photo 1 altered with permission (words added) from stupidmommy via Flickr Creative Commons
*Photo 2 used with permission from SnarkleMotion via Flickr Creative Commons

  1. Idea from The Inspired Treehouse; check the link for 10 more ideas on fun roughhousing activities!

2 Responses to:
"20 Fun Ways to Roughhouse with Your Kids"

  1. Emma   EmmaNutrition

    Such fantastic ideas! Thank you for sharing these. I can’t wait to try the blanket one. I remember my parents doing these things but for some reason I don’t do them enough. Bring on some more fun ;)

  2. Deborah Owen   DeborahCOwen

    Gentle, happy roughhousing is so important in parent-child relationships! You are right when you say that it not only helps you bond with your kids, but it also reduces stress and anxiety. Anything you can do to laugh with your kids, be affectionate, and honor their energy is great! Thanks for this article.

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