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Lessons from Steamroller

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On April 2, 2011, Anthony and I led a roughhousing event together at the Blue School in New York City. We learned some cool moves, like Shoulder Leap: Hold your child’s hands as you stand face to face. The child crouches down and then leaps up onto your shoulders (well, often they only get as far as your upper chest, in which case it works best for them to land on you with bent knees, their shins against your chest). You help them get height on their leap by lifting them with their arms. I learned from Anthony that using both hands prevents “nursemaid’s elbow,” which is a painful strain from yanking on only one arm at a time.
Another cool move was invented on the spot at the event, and the young inventor named it Slip And Slide. He and his mom stood on a mat holding hands face to face (he was wearing socks for extra slippage). He took a little hop up and backwards, landing on his heels, which then slid under and between his mom’s legs. Then she pulled him back out and hopped him up onto his flat feet again in front of her.
But I learned something at Blue School besides these moves. We actually did two different events, one for children age 2-4, and the other for older kids, 5-8. We expected that the younger ones would really like Steamroller, and that the older ones wouldn’t be as interested in it. Steamroller is a move where the parent lies on his or her back, and the child lies on top, belly button to belly button. The parent puts both arms around the child and rolls over, using elbows and knees to take some of the weight so the child isn’t shmushed. To our surprise, most of the older children really loved this game, and wanted to do it over and over. I think it’s because older children rarely get this kind of playful full-body close contact, the way younger children do, and I believe they really crave it and benefit from it.

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