Nurturing a Playful Touch

When my twins, Gus and Jack, were born, all I wanted to do was touch them. I wanted to hold them and breathe them in and cover them with claiming kisses. Due to their prematurity and the medication from my unwanted c-section, that was not possible at first. I made do with kangaroo care, attempted nursing, and also as much stroking and interaction as their highly sensitive systems would allow.

As the boys grew and matured, so did their need for nurturing touch. Over the past 12 months, I’ve become somewhat proficient at infant massage. We still do skin-to-skin time whenever they’re overwhelmed or just need extra cuddles. Of course there is on-demand nursing which provides me with all the opportunities I need for inhaling the scent of their precious heads and kissing the soft curves of their downy cheeks.

But what next? It becomes more difficult to replicate this type of nurturing touch for the developing, active, exploring, and mobile toddler. I know that they will still need the soft touch of mama well into their childhood and beyond, but I am also intuiting a need for something more.

It was a combination of watching my dad interact with the boys and reading Dr. Lawrence Cohen’s fabulous book, Playful Parenting, that gave me the insight I needed to move forward with my boys.

I found that wrestling, rough housing, and physical play can all be forms of nurturing (if that is what the child needs). Each gives the child an outlet to practice using his power, and in turn nurtures and develops his sense of self.

When my dad wrestles with Gus and Jack, it’s age-appropriate and safe. He wraps his arms around the boys individually in a bear hug and rolls from side to side, growling while the baby giggles. He then flops his arms out in release and offers an invitation to do it again. Most often, the baby with whom he’s wrestling comes back for more, joyfully pouncing on Papaw. There is physical connection, there is laughter, and there are limits. It’s perfect.

While I am not inherently a physical, get-on-the-floor type of person, I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn how to be more so from watching my father with the boys. I’ve started engaging Jack in some rough play when his actions show me he needs it. Usually the cue involves him trying to hit Gus on the head with something (or succeeding if I’m too far away). I read this as a signal to jump in and physically block the bonk while providing an outlet for the pent-up energy Jack’s experiencing. We wrestle, roar, and giggle. He knocks me over. We pounce. Then Gus gets in on the action and it is the two boys vs. mama in a wild romp. I love it and so do they.

There will always be time for cuddles and snuggles. However, I also now recognize the need for me to nurture my boys’ wilder sides with some loving, more physical touch.

*Special thanks to Dionna from Code Name: Mama for introducing me to such an excellent parenting resource through her Playful Parenting book discussion.

Photo Credit: Author


Mama Mo is the newly-minted stay at home mom of 12 month old twin boys. They spend their days playing, dancing to Irish music, wrestling, and nursing. Mama Mo blogs at Attached At the Nip.

6 Responses to Nurturing a Playful Touch

  1. Kristen  

    I just finished reading Playful Parenting and really loved it! I also like the idea that wrestling or roughhousing can be nurturing. It’s been very helpful with my 3 1/2 year old. My one year old still prefers the snuggles.

  2. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama  

    I really like this concept and look forward to trying it when Baby gets a bit older.

  3. Stacy (Mama-Om)  

    Lovely post!

    A great resource related to this is the idea of Original Play (… which is basically a way of playing without contest or cultural ideas of games, just simple Play in the way that all animals do. It is a really, really powerful way to connect and goes along with the type of play you described between your dad and your kids.