Ride down the stairs in a sleeping bag, toss the couch pillows at each other, roll around on the living room floor or even jump off the roof.

That kind of rough play is just what kids crave, and it's the kind of play parents should participate in with their children, and according to Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen, authors of "The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It."

While rough play comes more naturally to fathers, mothers can join in the fun, too, and have imaginative battles with their youngsters, toy swords and makeshift shields in hand.

"This kind of rough play with a parent benefits kids physically, emotionally and even cognitively," according to a recent blog post at the Boston Daily.

Parents, more often mothers, avoid or limit this type of play, as they worry someone will get hurt, which is often a common result, but it doesn't take away from the importance and value of the activity.

"We believe that real safety comes from knowledge, not from rules and saying 'No!' all the time," DeBenedet and Cohen told the New York Times article. "The 'rough' in roughhousing refers not to danger, but to the unleashing of the creative life force, which is joyful and exuberant. There will be some scrapes and bruises along the way, but we'd rather see a few of those than to see children timid and fearful or sitting like lumps staring vacantly at screens."

The authors also believe that roughhousing provides many other benefits, such as helping parents and children become more aware of each other and build a feeling of closeness. It also gives children a sense of accomplishment when they master a tricky flip or concoct the perfect plan to storm the castle — or at least their parent's stronghold in the living room.

This type of play also gives children positive physical interaction with their parents, by teaching boys that physically there is more to life than sex and violence and teaching girls that they can develop "inner strength and physical confidence," according to the Times article.

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And in a time when TV has taken over family evenings, the authors encouraged parents and children to take it back and relearn how to play with each other. While a parent's evening is often busy and filled with a long to-do list, the lessons mom or dad can teach their children by setting aside their busy lives for a little wrestlemania on the living room rug are worth the time spent.

"When we roughhouse with our kids, we model for them how someone bigger and stronger holds back," the two authors told MSNBC. "We teach them self-control, fairness and empathy. We let them win, which gives them confidence and demonstrates that winning isn't everything."

EMAIL: awhatcott@desnews.com