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Playful Parenting

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  2,120 ratings  ·  230 reviews

Have you ever stepped back to watch what really goes on when your children play? As psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen points out, play is children’s way of exploring the world, communicating deep feelings, getting close to those they care about, working through stressful situations, and simply blowing off steam. That’s why “playful parenting” is so important and so successful
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 30th 2002 by Ballantine Books (first published 2001)
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The Baby Book by William SearsHow to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele FaberWhat to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi MurkoffThe No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth PantleyThe Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
Most Influential Parenting Books
17th out of 251 books — 411 voters
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Attachment Parenting
3rd out of 63 books — 36 voters


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Community Reviews

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Kimberly Tardy
I had thought a lot about what parenting was going to mean for me and how I was going to go about it. I read a lot of different books covering all areas in great detail and discussedit with my partner. When my son arrived the experienced surpassed the greatest of expectations. Being the mother to a baby was just wonderful. BUT THEN one day, our baby was a boy who wanted to PLAY. He really showed that he needed me to get down on the floor and PLAY with him and his toys. I was totally unprepared f ...more
Cyndi
Cohen has tremendous energy and creativity in using play therapy to connect with children and help them deal with difficult feelings and impulses. What a fresh approach to parenting! Reading the first several chapters, I was amazed and impressed at how he looks at troubling behavior, mindfully tries to reframe it, seeking to understand the struggle going on inside the child, and help that child come through it in an atmosphere of loving support. Cohen seems remarkably intuitive, and senses when ...more
Carissa
I had a love/hate relationship with this book. I feel like it motivated me to play with my children more. It also made me rethink the value of play and what certain types of play mean. Due to this book, I played a game where my young son took away my shoes and I cried and cried about how I wanted them back. My son loved the game and due to reading this book, I could see where this would be fun for him when in real life, I'm the one taking things away from him. So there were nuggets that were gle ...more
Nicole
Oct 28, 2008 Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents
Recommended to Nicole by: a lady on the radio
This book is a must read for those in the attachment parenting camp, and any other parent wanting to have more fun, more connection and more happy times with their children. Cohen gives concrete examples of how to connect with kids using play, including rough-housing, games, silly antics and everyday activities.

The basics:

Children "misbehave" when they are disconnected. In order to reach the kids, we need to re-connect. The best way to do this is in the language of children - play. We have to l
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Natali
While this book did help me think about more playful ways to communicate with my children, I wished it were organized differently. The author talks about the "Playful Parenting method" a lot but doesn't really ever articulate exactly what it is. He just says that it is "this philosophy" or "that philosophy." I guess you can see each chapter as an articulation of the method but I kept waiting for a more clear explanation and it never came.

Also, this book has a lot of specific anecdotes. You can
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Mary Ann
Very interesting perspective on parenting! The message that has really stuck with me is the fact that if kids are acting up, all they may need is even a few minutes of our undivided attention to really reconnect, then they will be just fine. Taking those few minutes could save hours of struggling and grief. Plus, we need to have fun and connect with kids on their level once in a while! I've only been a parent for a year and a half and I already forget that often.

As far as the discipline section
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Fiona
I read this when my daughter was smaller, and found it to be a really helpful book. I have to admit that my child is quite an "easy" child, but I think part of that is due to the way I interact with her due to this book.

What made the biggest impression on me in this book is the idea that you can pick your battles, and you can also have fun with your child instead of escalating a battle of wills, especially with a child who can't really communicate his or her feelings effectively at this point.
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Lauren Bellon
I LOVE this book. There are so many opportunities to engage with kids through play, to deal with challenging behaviors through play...I once had a boy in one of my classes, 2 1/2 years old, who was going through a lot of change in his life. He would literally come to class each week and begin screaming at the beginning and not stop until the end, scaring some of the other kids quite a bit. For a variety of reasons, Mom was not intervening (she was very, very pregnant and I think just exhausted), ...more
Francis Norton
Keynes famously said "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist" and in a similar way, many of us are probably unwitting inheritors of a behaviourist view of parenting that suggests we somehow *should* be punishing or rewarding behaviour at its face value.

Lawrence Cohen offers another perspective, based on personal and professional experience, and two simple and reasonably common-sense ideas. The fir
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Ruby
Very mixed feelings on this one. On the plus side, Cohen offers some absolute gems of advice, and he has well and truly convinced me to incorporate much more playtime with my boy and even (gasp!) wrestle and play guns with him! On the down side, the book badly needed an editing job - I found it rambling and repetitive. I think this book would have benefitted from someone experienced in laying out non-fiction, with lots of dot-point summaries at the end of each chapter and a harsh red penning of ...more
Danielle
I've only read about half of this book, then had to return it to the library. But that was enough to inspire me to have a more playful approach to my daughter in everyday situations, and it is really working! She is 1 1/2, and she is getting to be a handful. This book also helped me with interactions with random kids I encounter at the park and everywhere else. Now I have some tools and ideas to change the tone of any situation, and change tears to laughter. It takes some work, but it is so wort ...more
Katey Thompson
Blech. Sounds like a great parenting book but it wasn't. I was so bored that I didn't even bother to finish the darn thing.
Here's what's wrong with it:
-no sound strategies to apply with your kids
-moves endlessly from platitude to anecdote
-the author sings his own praises just way too much. If he's not bragging about himself as a parent, then it's all about his prowess as a psychiatrist
-or bragging endlessly about his daughter.
Honestly, there is an outlet for that. It's called a blog. Except th
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Sandra Blackard
“Pretend… that we’re really gonna be late and you’re really mad.” Imagine your child saying that when you’re grumpy and trying to get out the door in the morning. Games work for kids and parents, too.

"Playful Parenting" is a psychological look at what works with kids. It includes the memorable analogy of filling a child's cup with connection to meet his/her needs. Dr. Cohen clearly establishes that meeting children's needs is the key to long-term behavior management as opposed to reward-and-pun
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Jen
Let's just get this out of the way: No, I'm not pregnant! Nor do I have children. Nonetheless, every once in a while I see a parenting book recommended in an article that intrigues me, and so I read it. I find them very insightful for dealing with people in general, as adults are all just basically large children... At work I like to joke that I read these books to help me deal with clients. ;)

So far this book is amazingly insightful. It explains how children can work through all of their emotio
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Nadine Jones
Good ideas, but the author seems to come off as insufferably superior at times, which is off-putting. The rest of us lose our temper, but he always knows better.
Elisabeth
One of my absolutely favorite parenting books. It's tremendously helpful in how I approach situations with my little ones. Not like everything is smooth sailing yet, but maybe I need to keep rereading this and a few other certain titles until more of the techniques and principles 'stick'.

I really felt this book gave me some insight into the minds of kid that a lot of others didn't. For instance, the stuff about aggressive play and how it can be beneficial to let the kids work out their stuff th
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Vanessa
SOOOOOO GOOD. For the budding play therapist and future parent, this book is amazing. Detailed with real life examples and a transformative approach to "problem" behaviors. I found Cohen to be a smart narrator helping to make parenting humane and call attention to the common misnomer that to follow a child's lead or have fun will make a child more likely to misbehave or not prepare the child for the real world. He is heavily influenced by Patty Wipfler of Hand in Hand Parenting, whose work I lov ...more
MN
I liked the book. Really helped me see the world through a child's perspective. A must read for all parents and especially for first-time parents.
ilaanya
In general, I liked this book. I think he has some great points and I am thinking of buying this book (checked it out at the library) because there are some really good ideas I'd like to share with my husband and to keep as a reference. However, I started this review off with 5 stars; then I started actually writing the review, and now it is down to 3.

This book helped give me new ideas for play, ideas for reshaping how I think about play, esp. when I don't want to, and how to use play to turn a
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Douglas Lord
"We all know we are supposed to turn off the TV and spend more time together," writes psychologist and Boston Globe columnist Cohen, "but then what?" Good question. Cohen provides some answers in this thorough, practical guide to the role of play in parenting. Chapters (e.g., "Join Children in Their World") describe how play can assist in decoding behavior and unspoken emotions while enabling parents to forge intimate connections. Cohen reminds us "that play is fun" and when we play with childre ...more
Tara
Loved this book! So why not 5 stars? Because it does not have a quick-pick selection of games or ideas to initiate play or suggestions for certain types of situations. I feel like I would need to keep rereading the book and make my own list. (That's fine of course, but the book would be greatly enhanced if that were done for the reader.) This book should be read by all parents!
Eleni
The best book I've read on parenting. I love the fact that it inspires respect towards children and understanding that they have needs and are not just acting out. If you truely want to become a good parent then this book is a must-read!
Jeannette
I've only read a few chapters of this so far. And it's revolutionizing how I interact with my toddler! *thumbs up!*
Gail
I'd probably give 3.5 stars if that were an option. I like a lot of the ideas in here, but there were a few things I really didn't like. The idea that to connect with your child you must play - what the child wants to play - with them is common sense and central to the book. I like his ideas about addressing issues like bullying, painful school drop off, etc. through play. I am not sure about his lack of discipline. He advocates for a meeting on the couch instead of things like timeout or ground ...more
Stephanie
There is so much great information in this book that I almost wish I had purchased it rather than borrowed it from the library. I wanted to take my highlighter to it in almost every single chapter.

Dr. Cohen really gets to the core of how playful parenting works. It isn't about never punishing your kids or avoiding serious conversations. Instead he carefully lists out and describes ways in which parents can fill their kids' "cups" through games and redirection. He also discusses ways parents can
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Elizabeth
Mar 22, 2008 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents, teachers, childcare providers, families
Shelves: family, 2008
"We complain about children's short attention spans, but how long can we sit and play marbles or Barbies or Monopoly or fantasy games before we get bored and distracted, or pulled away by the feeling that getting work done or cooking dinner is more important." p.3

i just finished this book and it is really good. I think this book is a good way to apply attachment parenting to older children. Essentially it is a book for adults on how to play with children. There were a few chapters in the middle
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April (The Steadfast Reader)
Overall I really liked this book. It gives some incredible tips on becoming more engaged with our children and how play is the language that our children use to express and deal with big and small hurts, disappointments, and trauma. It's definitely an extremely kid-centric theory of parenting.

Cohen stresses over and over again the importance of actually connecting with our children. He stresses that physical engagement in play is not only appropriate, it's absolutely necessary. He recommends th
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Marika Alexander
I LOVED this book! The author is a play therapist and his stance is that whenever children act in ways that typically annoy parents, such as whining, excessive crying, bullying, aggression, not listening to directions, that child is acting out due to a lack of human connection. And yet adults tend to ignore or punish children from acting out, at times when they are most in need of love and affection. Children retreat into the "twin towers of isolation and powerlessness" and the best way to get t ...more
Whole And
More stars please....this one is a keeper and re-reader.

A definite, absolute must read for all parents of children of all ages, those wanting to be parents and those being with children.

"Playful Parenting" offers profound perspectives, approaches, insights and examples of how to REACH children, how to be with them during challenging times and how to enrich our overall experience with our children. The outcome of Dr. Cohen's approach will be enhanced closeness and connection, no matter where you
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Taylor
Pair this book with Alfie Kohn's "Unconditional Parenting" - that one is more theory and this one is more practice. Together they make a fine pair of books that (if read by even a fourth of the parents out there) could make a substantial change toward the improvement of society.

One of the small details of this book that made me decide to add it to my shelf was Cohen's reference to children as his friends. This is not something the average adult does. We don't say; "When I was hanging out with m
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Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., the author of PLAYFUL PARENTING, is a licensed psychologist specializing in children's play and play therapy. In addition to his private therapy practice, he is also a speaker and consultant to public and independent schools, and a teacher of parenting classes and classes for daycare teachers. Dr. Cohen is also the co-author, with Michael Thompson and Catherine O'Neill Gr ...more
More about Lawrence J. Cohen...
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“I’m always amazed when adults say that children “just did that to get attention”. Naturally children who need attention will do all kinds of things to get it. Why not just give it to them?” 6 likes
“My wife was out and I was home alone with Emma when my mother called. She said, "Oh, so you're babysitting?" As politely as I could manage, I answered, "I call it fathering." She realized immediately what she had said and apologized. I realized that when she was a child, and again as a mother of young children, father's active involvement with their infants was so minimal that it could fairly be called baby-sitting.” 4 likes
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