Thoughts on chapter 7 in Playful Parenting

This posting is part of a series where I read each chapter of the book Playful Parenting together with Jennifer at Inspire Mama. This is her posting on this chapter.

The name of this chapter is Suspend Reality: Reverse the Roles.

Most important is to play

Now we are really in the middle of the book, and I start to worry a little that this many chapters and all these thoughts might make somebody out there less inclined to play with their children. Therefore I would like to stress one thing. The really most important message of this book is: Play with you child! Don’t make it into something complicated or tiresome, just do it, and try to enjoy it as much as possible, and if you don’t enjoy it so much, spend some time with it anyway.

The  book is a very beautiful document of how parents can express love and empathy through play.

The scare-thief

Recently my son has talked a lot about thiefes, wondering thing like: Why do thieves steal? Do thieves steal childrens toys? etcetera. It is clear that he has been struggling with the reality of thieves and the possibility of losing things by theft.

So we made into a project to construct a ”scare-thief” (en tjuvskrämma in Swedish). He painted a scary ghost that we glued to our front-door.

It was interesting for me to watch this happening, because at one hand I have the impression that he understands that thieves probably aren’t that afraid of ghosts, and at the other hand he is absolutely fascinated with this project and seem to take it 100 % seriously.

I think it illustrates Cohen’s point that children need to work through their fears and anxieties in many ways. Constructing a thief-scarer is doing something about the threat, and there’s something so extremely human about this. We humans desperately want to feel that we can do something about our plight.

I also feel that probably it is more important than we adults want to think that we participate in these projects. Probably on some symbolic level my participating in the project makes my son feel that I’m on his side against the thieves and other evils that he might encounter in this world.

Jennifer also gives a beautiful example of how adults can use play to help children work through learning-challenges, by pretending to fall when the child is falling. (Here I come to think of externalising, an interesting concept in therapy with children)


This chapter also has a very important discussion about screens – tv and computers. Cohen argues that of course we need to discuss the pros and cons of TV and computer-games, but it is just as important that we adults really offer alternatives and play that draw the children back into the real world.

Also play is very important for children as a way of dealing with the frightening parts in movies or TV-shows. They need to try and be Spiderman themselves, or they might need a parent to be a clumsy superhero that falls over and begs for a hug, to bring forth the giggles and make the scary stuff less threatening.


Jennifers discussion of the role of imagination made me think of when my son started using role play. He had been watching Pippi Longstocking and started giving commands: ”I’m Pippi and you’re the father. No! I’m the father and you’re Pippi”. I remember thinking that there was a whole new world of opportunities opening in his brain in that moment, and I could see for my inner eye how the neurons started connecting in new ways, and how he used play to try and ”be Pippi”.