27 June 2023
Wrestling with your children is a great way to strengthen bonds, teach about boundaries, get some exercise and have some fun. Studies have shown that taking part in wrestling with friends and family - sometimes referred to as “roughhousing” or “rough play” - can have several positive benefits for children. Children crave human contact of any sort, and wrestling provides a really fun way of getting this. Depending on what kind of thing you’re doing, you can even begin wrestling with your child when they’re as young as one.
To begin with, let’s clarify what we mean by wrestling. The sport of wrestling includes Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, pro-wrestling and a host of other martial arts that come under the label of “grappling and submission wrestling”, such as jiu-jitsu, judo and sumo. Because of the potential dangerous techniques, wrestling as a sport and martial art requires instruction and should not be replicated at home without prior training. The same goes for pro-wrestling. Pro-wrestling is the type of wrestling that’s partially staged and put on for show. Think of WWE, John Cena and The Rock. The pro-wrestling your children might see on TV is performed by trained professionals and can be dangerous to replicate at home.
There are many wrestling classes and clubs across the country that you and your children can attend. These clubs take children from around the age of 6 or 7. To begin with, children will be taught a mix of all wrestling styles to get them used to holding others and being thrown around. As they get older, they will have the chance to specialise in a specific style.
There is a different definition of wrestling: that of “rough play” that most children enjoy together and with their parents. This is a very different type of wrestling and can be done with your children from a very early age. It can include tickling your child, letting them climb on you, throwing them onto pillows, helping them climb onto your shoulders and more.
This type of wrestling brings many benefits to both you and your child, chiefly that it allows you to spend some close time together bonding and having fun. As you wrestle, your child will be learning. If they’re young, around one or two years old - they’ll be learning physical sensations such as being held high up and low down, swooped around and tickled. As they get older, they’ll begin to learn such things as boundaries, where they feel safe and how far their bodies can go. It also helps develop creativity and - of course - physical exercise.
Any age is fine for wrestling as long as you’re mindful of safety. For example, for babies just stick to tickling. As children get older, set areas aside with pillows down and move anything that they might fall on away. Remember your size difference and keep an eye on where they are and what you’re doing as you wrestle. Doing this will make it an enjoyable experience for you both.