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Playful Parenting

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  3,680 ratings  ·  319 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 28th 2002 by Ballantine Books (first published 2001)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  3,680 ratings  ·  319 reviews

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Kimberly OutspokenMom
Sep 16, 2012 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
Jun 12, 2013 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
Nicole Johns
Oct 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents
Recommended to Nicole Johns 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
Mar 28, 2009 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
Sandra Blackard
Jul 22, 2012 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
Francis Norton
Aug 23, 2010 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
Aug 05, 2012 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
Jan 02, 2014 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 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.
Mary Ann
May 01, 2010 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
Lauren Bellon
Aug 18, 2009 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
Jul 19, 2010 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
Mar 18, 2013 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
Nadine Jones
Aug 29, 2007 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.
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite parenting book yet. This is exactly how I want to parent- I love that he focuses on the fun of parenting and why playing is so important. Loved it!
Jul 24, 2014 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
Mar 12, 2012 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
Nov 21, 2011 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!
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
A valuable alternative to power struggles and nagging.
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is been a long time since a parenting book made me excited to try out the methods. I really like the lessons from this book, and they have made an immediate improvement on things in my house. Very well done.
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really took a lot from this book. One of those, "I should reread this because I'll know I'll forget stuff in a year" type of books. As a parent who is more of the reader, writer, colorer, hiker, meditative type--I found actually sitting down and playing to be hard. This made it feel so much easier. I've been testing it while reading it with Luca, and man, has it made a world of difference. I already love our alone time together, and this just took it to the next level. Plus, with his typical b ...more
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting
I listened to this book as an audiobook , and I really appreciated hearing the author's voice as he described the lengths he's gone to as a parent and a play therapist to help children open up, heal, and develop healthy coping skills. The advice in the book is varied and helpful, but can sometimes seem like too big an ask for tired, drained parents. Cohen addresses this toward the end of the book, in a section that I would probably have appreciated hearing earlier, about how we do what we can.

Jun 18, 2010 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
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, but halfway I started feeling resentful. I really felt like a boring parent not just that I felt like he didn't give actual ideas. Yeah get on the floor! Well, I could, but now I'm pregnant so it made me feel like I wasn't playing enough with her. Some samples he gave, I really thought the kid was being a brat and that playful parenting was not teaching a consequence. I started looking into other parenting books and I found Love and Logic. I feel that's somethi ...more
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Cohen gives parents a third option: rather than win or lose a power struggle, side step it all together through play. He gives a compelling argument for the purpose of play in the lives of children.

I think (as he is a therapist and a father of one), he could’ve done more with how to playfully parent with multiple children and how to do it when you are exhausted. And in parenting, unlike therapy, there’s less likely to be a defined issue to address that week and time to prepare for it. I appreci
Mandi Thorn
Sep 11, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars I listened to this book on 1.5 speed as a refresher (read it a few years ago). I wanted a reminder on how important play is and how I can be more playful. It doesn’t come naturally to me but I usually get awesome reactions from my kids. Much better then demanding, lecturing and the such. I think play therapy is important but not the END ALL as this book suggests. Good read and I recommend. I love all the nuggets I get from parenting books.
Dec 04, 2012 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!
Laurentiu Ghenciu
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting
One of the best books on parenting I've read - lots of examples and practical advice; tested many of them myself with success. Highly recommended for any parent that is serious about keeping their kids happy and their parenting easy.
Jan 01, 2008 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!*
Feb 18, 2015 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.
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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

Articles featuring this book

"Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do." -Benjamin Spock Calling all parents who have ever found themselves wondering:...
35 likes · 10 comments
“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?” 11 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.” 5 likes
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