We've had several parents look at us at least quizzically, if not askance, when we mention our annual Pillow Play Day. Aren't we promoting violence? Aren't we sanctioning rowdy behavior?
We're not trying to train the next generation of Wrestlemania stars! And we're not an in-your-face, down-with-the- establishment group, either. We are out to bring parents and children together in an environment where it's OK to pile onto each other, OK to “get” the grownups playfully, and OK to bob up and down in a small roiling sea of big and little people, seeing who is fun to play with, and how good it is just to play without a plan.
The world is a pretty structured place for children, starting in day care or preschool. Parents don't have much time for horsing around at home, for time on the floor, giving horsy rides or playing “I'm going to catch you!” as many times as children love to play that game. And out in public, most parents are always on guard, always feeling the need to keep their children in line, lest others judge them harshly.
So we set aside a couple of hours a year when it's OK to romp, OK to throw little pillows. The grownups all know that if a pillow is thrown, they are to fall over, crash, moan, and struggle back up, only to be vanquished again. It's great to be a kid experimenting with power, great to be able to knock down an adult you don't even know, and have them laugh and rise up to be knocked down again. Our experience is that, over time, children who have regular access to rough and tumble play with warm, welcoming grownups have a tendency to be tuned in to the feelings and needs of others, and to be confident enough to lead among their peers, and later, in the world at large.
We create a place where a child can't go wrong. We try to create a place where the pillows fly for five or ten minutes at a time, so the grownups get a bit of respite. We offer other things to do–art to create and snacks to satisfy–for those children who aren't attracted to the pillow play. Most of all, we hope family members will laugh, children will feel glorious, and rough and tumble play will be elevated in parents' minds to its rightful place as an important part of children's (and parents') lives.
— The Staff and Instructors and Hand in Hand