"I had posted about boys and play fighting about 6 months ago and got some great replies…including 2 good book recommendations. The two books were - Killing Monsters and It is OK Not to Share. The latter has a small section on aggressive play/fighting etc while the former is all about the topic. Interesting reads for sure!
"My 4yo is also in a phase where he's fighting and killing everything. I read this great book called Killing Monsters and it's all about why kids need violence and how to address it, if to address it. It completely changed my view on it. We now let him freely fight with parameters. We actually play along with him more now! It addresses how we as parents are uncomfortable with it because of what it means to us. But they don't know about real violence - they're not doing it to hurt people; it's unclear if they even understand what killing means. They do it for different reasons, like empowerment and problem-solving. Of course we shouldn't let it get extreme but this book really shed light on their thinking and about the dangers of stifling it too much."
"My daughter is younger (just turned three), but she also does some roughhousing with her boy and girl friends. I feel like you answer your own question; they are happy and playing and working it out together. It is fun to wrestle. It doesn't sound like they're being violent. We want to be consistent--make hitting always wrong. But, wrestling isn't hitting, it's exciting and for kids who have the right groove, seems like a way to express affection as much as let out energy. If things go wrong and someone hits too hard, sounds like you'd know from watching. You can talk to your son separately, maybe, and ask if he's having fun, and remind him he can tell his playmates if the fun goes wrong. And remind him to be sure whoever he's playing with also wants to play, etc.
I'm really curious what others have to say, but that's my sense from your description. It's hard, because there's definitely some little friends my daughter plays with who want to wrestle/play fight and maybe with some friends it works great, but it doesn't feel like they are able yet to take the cues of their peers. (Meaning, they come and hit my kid and she cries, or hits them back; maybe they were playing with a friend a moment ago, then "not playing" when they hit another kid who isn't in on the game). But again from your description, it sounds like if that was happening, you'd intervene appropriately. Learning context is as important I think as consistency."
"I just downloaded a book called It's Ok Not To Share. I've just read the intro, but it's based on the philosophy of play in 2-5 year olds and a preschool/play school in Ohio. If I recall there is a whole chapter or series of chapters on play fighting, guns, swords and speaks to the developmental need of children this age and rules (as few as possible) around these different topics that many many toddlers experience."
"I have 2 boys who are just able to start wrestling with each other (almost 5 and 19 months. The little one is rougher than the big one!) I read a book called It's Ok Not To Share that gives great perspective on many issues including a chapter called "it's ok to punch your friends" or something like that. Basically it says that if everyone is clear and comfortable with the rules and boundaries, let them go for it. My older son has always wanted to rough house with friends but most of his pals are girls and they aren't quite as into it as him. Now I'm glad he and his brother have each other to roll around with! They wrestle with me and my husband too but seeing them do it on their own is pretty fun and they are definitely learning about trust, boundaries, reacting and communicating."
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