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Playful Parenting

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  2,673 Ratings  ·  245 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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 30th 2002 by Ballantine Books (first published 2001)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 12, 2013 Carissa rated it it was ok
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
Kimberly OutspokenMom
Sep 16, 2012 Kimberly OutspokenMom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting
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
Mar 28, 2009 Cyndi rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Oct 28, 2008 Nicole rated it really liked it
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
Aug 05, 2012 Natali rated it liked it
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
Mary Ann
Jan 08, 2011 Mary Ann rated it really liked it
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
Jan 12, 2014 Ruby rated it liked it
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
Mar 03, 2011 Fiona rated it really liked it
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.
Sandra Blackard
Jul 22, 2012 Sandra Blackard rated it it was amazing
“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
Lauren Bellon
Aug 18, 2009 Lauren Bellon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting
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
Jul 15, 2012 Francis Norton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
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
Apr 14, 2012 Vanessa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
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
Jul 19, 2010 Danielle rated it really liked it
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
May 15, 2014 Katey Thompson rated it did not like it
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
Valentina Chiriac
Jun 19, 2016 Valentina Chiriac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sunt mereu sceptică când încep o carte despre parenting! Toate se laudă a fi cea mai bună, indicându-ți reguli și idei perfecte pe care trebuie doar să le aplici și gata: ai copilul, relația și viața perfectă. Iar dacă ceva nu merge conform 'planului' este desigur vina părintelui care nu respectă rețeta. Puține cărți recunosc că "incredientele" nu sunt aceleași, nici măcar roșiile nu au toate același gust, cu atât mai mult copiii!
Totuși, această carte este una dintre cele mai reușite de până ac
Aug 05, 2014 Jen rated it really liked it
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
Nadine Jones
Sep 20, 2016 Nadine Jones rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
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.
Jan 10, 2011 Elisabeth rated it really liked it
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
Feb 18, 2015 MN rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 04, 2014 ilaanya rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
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
Douglas Lord
Jun 03, 2014 Douglas Lord rated it really liked it
"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
Catalin Negru
Jul 31, 2016 Catalin Negru rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, parenting
Target audience: Parents who want to improve or strengthen the relations with their children.

About the author: According to, Lawrence J. Cohen 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. His books have been translated into fourteen languages.

Structure of the bo
Feb 14, 2013 Tara rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
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!
Dec 04, 2012 Eleni rated it it was amazing
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!
Mar 12, 2010 Jeannette rated it really liked it
Shelves: mommy-books
I've only read a few chapters of this so far. And it's revolutionizing how I interact with my toddler! *thumbs up!*
Dec 11, 2015 Katie rated it liked it
I will be more playful. A bit woo woo... I will try to wrestle more with my kids.
I bought this when my daughter was basically a newborn and I was looking for stuff to do with her, but it's not that kind of book at all. It works much better as a book for young kids, which is what I have, now! Sometimes waiting for ages before getting around to reading the books you bought has perks.

I really liked the first half of the book. There's a lot of good ideas of how to play with your kid - it sounds weird to need "ideas" on how to play, but as adults, we're disconnected from goofines
Jun 06, 2015 Daphne rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
I really liked the insights this book had to offer. The techniques seem sound, and match up with a lot of my own ideas about connected parenting. I wish there was a way to give half stars, because this feels more like a three and a half star book than a four star book. The book is incredibly repetitive. It could have stood some much more rigorous editing and restructuring.

The author's tone often verges on condescending, in spite of his multiple protests about not being perfect himself. It felt m
Aug 18, 2015 Gail rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
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
Sep 14, 2013 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
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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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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