Book Review: Parenting – Let’s Make a Game of It

Review: Parenting – Let’s Make a Game of It: Playful Ways to Stop Struggling with Your Child and Start Having More Fun

By Karen Thurm Safran
Published in 2019

Reading format: started reading as an ARC e-Book, switched to physical book when I received a copy from the author

Disclosure: the images and title of this book are linked to Amazon.com through the Amazon Affiliates Program. Should you choose to buy this book using my link, it will not cost you even a penny more than if you found the listing on Amazon independently. However, Amazon will pay me a tiny referral incentive for purchases made with my links. By using their affiliate links, I am allowed to use their high-quality book images for free to improve the visual experience of the blog for my readers.

I strongly believe that you do not have to buy books to enjoy them and I ALWAYS recommend using your library card to access books for FREE. However, I recognize that books make great gifts, and particularly recommend this one for a Mother’s or Father’s Day gift.

Review: 4.5/5

I’ve been reading a lot of parenting literature lately to help us navigate the changes in family dynamics that accompany our children seeking increased independence (Lumiere and Chip are 6 and 4, respectively). There are far too many parenting books I start but have been unable to finish. This happens for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to: the inability to hold my attention, lack of anecdotes to bring advice to life, or an unbearable “preachy” tone in the writing. It’s a tough and controversial genre, and many books try to bite off more than they can chew.

What makes Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It: Playful Ways to Stop Struggling with Your Child and Start Having More Fun so refreshing is the author’s accessible writing style. She dispenses her advice in short anecdotes, all featuring the same fictional family: single Mom Carrie, daughter Emily, and son Justin. Told in first person, the anecdotes span from when her children are 2 to 12, but the majority focus on the tough 3- to 8-year-old age range. Safran fluidly uses narrative to introduce the ages of the kids at the beginning of each story, providing context.

The authenticity with which the author writes the voices, reactions, and sibling squabbles makes this book believable. The kids are not always buying what Carrie is selling and you witness Carrie troubleshoot through her internal monologue. She is relatable because she’s often frustrated, worn-out, and constantly questioning herself (wait… is that not how you Mom?!?). Carrie’s love for her kids is evident and her creativity is inspiring.

The collection is divided into the following five parts, with chapters averaging less than 6 pages in length (including the occasional graphic):

  • Part I: Ugh, My Child Won’t Cooperate (featuring 7 chapters)
  • Part II: Oh No, My Child is Distressed (featuring 7 chapters)
  • Part III: Uh-Oh, My Child is Bored (featuring 5 chapters)
  • Part IV: Yeeks, Everything is Overwhelming (featuring 6 chapters)
  • Part V: Oh Yeah, Live Life to the Fullest (featuring only one story reminding us to take time to create special memories with our kids)

Despite some unique chapter titles, each is subtitled transparently for clarity (e.g., Where Do You Live? Memorizing Things to a Song, Let’s Fly the Plane! Gaining Control to Tackle a Fear, Sixty Packets of Oatmeal: Using a Bar Graph to Incentivize Kids). Thus, it’s each to skip to or revisit the topics in which you are most interested. Because the chapters are so short, it’s a fast read to complete and not too daunting to pick up for even a few minutes at a time.

My one criticism of the book is the frequent use of eating out as a reward or a restaurant as a setting. This is not financially feasible for every family. Contemporary research cautions against using food as a reward to avoid developing warped unhealthy relationships with food/eating. That being said, I can appreciate that these stories are based on the author’s parenting journey, which took place in a generation before the more health-conscious trends and accessibility of parenting research available today. I can still learn and adapt her techniques to parenting my own littles. We’ve already successfully taught Lumiere and Chip our home address and my cell phone number using songs. We use the magical breath for stressful situations. And I can’t wait to try making museums fun by posing kids like statues/paintings.

With summer upon us, many who are fortunate to have flexible work schedules or work in/from the home are spending more hours with our school-age children than we might during the typical weekday. While this provides opportunities for fun activities and increased playtime, real life doesn’t stop. We still need to shop for groceries, attend health appointments, run errands, and attend events, often with children in tow. The anecdotes in this book help me approach these routine outings with a new sense of fun and family teamwork (instead of battling against my kids or begging/bribing for compliance).

Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It: Playful Ways to Stop Struggling with Your Child and Start Having More Fun is challenging me to infuse fun into the mundane. I’d definitely recommend checking it out if you are looking for easily -digestible, immediately-implementable parenting tips!

What is something you do with your kids to bring fun to the everyday routine?

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