Friday, 25 May 2007

Rough Play

This week I had the pleasure of working with a group of 20 year seven boys, young men in their first year at big school, a tough all boys school; making the step from the age of 11 and 12 into their teens and everything that comes with that; a difficult time of transition but an exciting one.

I was in the school all day, to teach the children physical theatre, a massive area of investigation and an alienating one for the young people with negative views on drama as effeminate. I had always intended that the session would play to the boy’s strengths, to engage them in using their bodies first and then easing the session into creative work.

Although some may accuse me of pandering to gender stereotypes the best way to engage lads like these is rough, tough, competitive play with overarching principles of honour, fairness and maximum effort at all times, even in a losing cause. As I expected the boys responded to it very well, mainly because such concepts are rarely practised in schools now, rough play is shied away from, as is directly competitive behaviour; crucially without these how can you teach children concepts of honour and fairness if the bar is never set for them to reach it?

It was an invigorating experience for me; to see these young men engage in tough, physically demanding activities and then take the lessons learnt into creative, solo, physical improvisations in front of their classmates.

Rough play has so many benefits, especially for boys, in that it establishes physical contact between males as a positive, necessary and natural thing. It also enables children to explore their own bodies, its limits, its strengths and weaknesses; rough play is an outlet for frustrations and tensions channelled in a constructive way.

It is a great shame that we exist now in such a controlled and safety-first environment that rough play is limited to special sessions, rather than being encouraged as natural behaviour as a tool to self-awareness, self-development and the understanding of essential values.


  1. Just because all of my kids' clothing is made from teflon-coated bubble wrap does NOT mean that I'm overprotective.


  2. There were many lessons to be learned at recess. That was always considered part of the education.

  3. I've seen with my own eyes, children who became professional theater people, because of programs like that.

  4. Cranky congratulates our boys on good scrapes. They need to be toughened up.

    On the other hand, Raymond had to be punished for teaching Bob how to "moon". I should add that a neighbor-girl was with them in the yard also. Argghh!

  5. DHG,
    Say, man...What's shakin'?

    I've been doing my best to hide the last few months. It has been a much needed respite and has renewed my vigor for life. I was getting fairly ugly for a while there.

    Could you do me a favor and send me a mailing address? I realized a while back that I never get a letter. Shit, I don't even remember the last time I got one in the mail for that matter. So I have been on a very hard core letter writing binge lately and would like to add you into the fray. It may sound silly, but a letter in the mailbox is infinitely more satisfying than anything you ever get on the net.

    You can e-mail it to me at Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon.

    Until then...

  6. We spend way too much of our lives trying to protect our kids. Yes, we want them to be safe, but we must always remember they're much sturdier than we think. After all, they're designed to be raised by morons.


  7. Great comments guys and Jeff I've mailed you the facts!


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