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.