Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wrestling 2010

During the weeks leading into the December holiday break and for these first couple weeks of the year, as often happens, spontaneous wrestling as been breaking out in the classroom. Not fighting, but the kind of roughhousing engaged in joyfully by consenting children. While it’s inappropriate behavior during, say, circle time or amongst the towers of wooden blocks, I knew it was time to introduce the appropriate time and venue.

Wrestling has been a part of our curriculum for the past several years. After discussing wrestling at circle time, then running through the rules in preparation for our first matches of the year, we hit the mats. As generally happens, the moment we make wrestling a sanctioned activity, girls jump right into this stereotypical “boy” activity with a comparable gusto. During this inaugural half-hour session, I would estimate that a full ¾ of our group gave it a go, while ¼ stayed on the mats wrestling the entire time.

As referee, I kept up a running commentary on what I was seeing, much of which involved reminders to follow the rules, like, “No hands in people’s faces,” “No wrestling with someone who is not on the mats,” and “Stop when someone says ‘Stop!’” I kept my eyes on their faces, looking for winces of pain or signs of anger, but mostly saw red-faced ear-to-ear grins, even when at the bottom of a four-child pile up.

This isn’t to say there weren’t minor injuries, most involving the inadvertent knocking together of heads, which is one of the natural consequences of wrestling. And while I consider “pushing” to be a normal part of wrestling, it got a little out of hand, with several instances of children being pushed off the mats and onto the carpeted, yet harder floor. For some, their bumps were enough to give up the game and head outside, but many “took a break” for the tears to subside, then waded right back into the game.

This experience under our belt, we’ll take some time today to discuss what we liked and didn’t like about the wrestling experience before our second session. I’m expecting to devise a new protocol surrounding the pushing (i.e., “You may pull people to the ground, but not push them.”), and a caution that we only wrestle at preschool, on the mats, with people our own size (this necessitated by my learning that one of our boys tried to recreate his fun experience last night at home with his much younger and unwilling brother).

Up until this year, I’d believed that we were the only preschool on earth that engaged in wrestling as part of our curriculum, but I was thrilled to learn that I was wrong when Jenny posted this article over at Let The Children Play, where I’ve been avidly following her amazing exploration of outdoor play and playgrounds.

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Deborah (Teach Preschool) said...

I think just about every preschool program has a lesson in wrestling whether they want to or not:) What a good idea to go ahead and have it be part of the curriculum so you can shape the concept a little more and give some guidelines.

Michelle said...

As the Mom to 4 crazy boys, wrestling is a way of life in my home. Knowing it is an appropriate activity for boys (and girls) I was able to put limits on it and it doesn't have to turn into destructive or angry type of play. Although, brothers do seem to ALWAYS take it one step to far :)

Launa Hall said...

This is fascinating. Do you ever wrestle yourself? Do you teach holds? Love it that the girls jump in. Wish I was there to watch and learn.

Teacher Tom said...

Yeah Michelle, sibs are an entirely different animal. I always tell parents I can't help them with that other than to reflect on my relationship with my own brother and sister.

Launa, I learned long ago that if a grown man even once deigns to roughhouse with kids, it becomes your destiny. I don't mind if a dad wants to earn that reputation for himself (or mom for that matter) but I stay out of it. Plus, I'd feel sick if my larger body hurt one of them.

The girls always become part of the action. By the end of wrestling today, in fact, it was mostly girls. Josephine got her hair caught under her friend and shouted, "I hate wrestling!" After school I said, "Josephine hates wrestling, she'll never do it again." She smiled at me with a twinkle and answered, "Except sometimes."

atelierista said...

We've been wrestling at Sabot for years, too! Besides the outlet for movement and energy, it is such a great lesson for listening to each other, impulse control, strategy, games and rules, too.

Life with Kaishon said...

We have wrestling spontaneously occur EVERY day in our house. If it isn't Kaish and Shoshi or Jonathon or Patrick and is Gary! : ) Yay for wrestling.

jenny said...

Thank goodness there are other wrestlers out there too :) And thanks for the mention Tom. Like you, I have only seen benefits to getting the old wrestling mat out and having a rumble but I must admit I was a bit uncertain at first.

I love that it brings out the rough and tumble play in the girls as well. I've seen many a delicate little flower turn into a lean, mean, wrestling machine!

Ms. Katie said...

Interesting. I am just now finding a world of preschool blogs like my own! My boys wrestle all the time, too, and it seems unnatural to fight it. Maybe I'll introduce the idea of sanctioned wrestling at our next staff meeting, and the staff should be intrigued but I am just not sure how the parents will take it :) How do your parents react? Check out my blog at

bre said...

Ive heard of Rough and Tumble, but you actually have mats? Very Cool. Do parents have a problem with it?(Is it something parents are aware of from the start?)

ps love it that the girls jump in!

Teacher Tom said...

@Ms. Katie and bre . . . We're a cooperative so the parents are right there in the classroom with me, helping me "referee." So far, no one has suggested we NOT do it, and many have thanked me for sanctioning it!

Crystal said...

Your posts on wrestling encouraged me to embrace it. We followed a similar tactic of discussing rules and refereeing the process, and it's been a HUGE hit! It has really helped us with the energy level in the room, and the boys' need for physical contact. Thank you for helping me think outside of the box, and better meeting the needs of my students!!!

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