Play – The Universal Language

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            I recently returned from a trip to Romania, where I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with a group of dedicated parents and their children.  The parents spoke English fluently, which was good because I struggled with just a few words of Romanian.  But when it came time for the morning of play, I wasn’t sure what would happen.  The children were ages 1-7 and did not speak English.  I thought I might need an interpreter to follow me around, which would have been tough, because when I am in play mode I am always on the move.  Turns out that no interpreter was necessary, because roughhousing is the universal language.  I talked a little bit, just out of habit, but it didn’t matter that they didn’t understand, because no verbal language is necessary for games of “chase and miss” (where the adult chases the child and misses at the last minute), or “chase and catch” (where the child chases the adult and eventually catches them in a big hug), or for pillow fighting.

One sentence that I did have translated was asking families to share some of their favorite physical games with the group.  I learned that Rock Paper Scissors is an international hit, and so is rolling children up in blankets and Steamroller (laying on your back with your child laying on top of you, and rolling together on the floor).   I also learned a cool new move called Hand Foot Rocket.  For this move, the parent kneels on the ground, facing their child, with both hands outstretched.  The child puts her right hand into the parent’s left hand, and puts her left foot into the parent’s right hand.  The parent lifts the foot in the air while standing up.  The child needs to hold her leg straight without letting the knee collapse for this to work properly.  It might take a few tries to make this a fluid movement.

Another move I learned was The Pendulum, where the parent stands facing the child, holding both hands.  The child climbs up the parent’s legs like the beginning of Skin the cat, until his legs are around the parent’s neck, with the body hanging down.  The child then rocks from side to side, like a pendulum.  There’s a great song that goes with this, but my Romanian language skills were not good enough to capture it for you here.

I was thrilled to see roughhousing in action in Romania!  If you try these moves at home, be sure to send us a video.

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