Thursday, March 24, 2022

Wrestling is good for children.

Originally published Sept 2010

Many of our parents seemed shocked when they came to pick up their children from Beansprouts and found them all wrestling on a mat in the middle of the yard.  No one questioned it, so I'm assuming they trust our judgment that much : )

One of my favorite preschool blogs, who I have probably linked to in the past, is Teacher Tom.  He discusses wrestling in the following posts:

Why We Wrestle

They Went Home Tired

Wrestling 2010

And he also refers to this link, which is also nice.

Hugging=squeezing and falling

the point was to help kids take cues from others, make contact with one another in a way that was rough but still fun, hard to take cues when too many kids and three-four at a time worked really well.  we split the group up into the blue group and the rainbow group (that was also a great way to solidify their recognition of their own group) we also split it up boys and girls.  six seemed to become the tipping point.  plus they got to work on starting and stopping (took practice) because as we switched groups, the previous group would have to get off and this took practice for all of them.  It seemed that when they were in smaller groups, they self-regulated whether they wanted "wrestling" or "tumbling", as teacher tom differentiates in his post.  Often there was a flow, as the children alternated between wrestling and tumbling.

Also we did have to
make sure it was "fun" for everyone.  When it looked to the teacher that it wasn't "fun", we would ask and modify if needed.  And certain ground rules are in place.  hitting and kicking and clothes pulling are not allowed for obvious reasons.  one of the children started using the word "punch" and we make it very clear that we're not going to let that child punch at preschool.  It's been interesting to watch the children make their own interpretations of wrestling, and for some, it's mimicking what they've seen on tv (fighting) and the teachers are always there to make sure that the children understand that it's not fighting, it's just a game, and those children get to re-define their own scripts about physical contact (competing with mass media messages is one of the biggest challenges of a teacher, so if they come away with a new definition of rough physical contact with others, then we've done our job here)
sometimes we just held an ice pack waiting for the first injury, but whenever a child got injured, they inevitably held the ice on their injury for just a moment, and then returned to the game.  I loved that they were willing to take a risk to participate in a group activity and connect with their peers.

Every now and then we'll get two or three crying kids at once.  It happens about every other wrestling session, not every time.  And each time I wonder if maybe we're giving them two much freedom, but seeing how willing the hurt children are to resume the activity, I'm reminded that preschool fun (and learning) has inherent risks.  Everything they do has risks.  Doesn't mean we keep them in a bubble.

They've sort of lost interest in wrestling.  They've transitioned into a new physical contact bonding ... the cat game.  They all pretend like they are cats, each a member of the cat family, and identify themselves according to their moods or other internal attributes like the "angry" cat or the "grumpy" can or the "bad" kitty or the "tired" kitty.  Considering that family dramatic play is new, this is a significant leap in their social and cognitive experience at school.  They paw at each other, lick each other (we encourage them to "pretend" so we don't spread germs), push each other around for space on the cat beds (old couch cushions that we have in the yard).  Sometimes three children participate, sometimes it's almost the entire group.  It's wonderful.

It's also been great for those children whse social skills are still raw, the social interest just showing up and still resorting to younger-two strategies to enter into play with other children.  For a few of these children, strategies for engaging other children were hitting, grabbing, pushing, hugging to hard, taking the child's toys, and other inappropriate ways of getting attention.  Wrestling sort of "assigned" rough physical contact to the game of wrestling, making it sort of ridiculous to use it in other contexts.  Some bonding occurred as well.

A lot of what they learn is how to engage in physical play safely, they learn awareness of who is in their space, how much is "too" much.

Beckett's breakthroughs

Wrestling is good for children.

Originally published Sept 2010 Many of our parents seemed shocked when they came to pick up their children from Beansprouts and found the...