Exploring the Outdoors, Crafts, & Kids’ Curiosity | Parenting Reviews, May 15, 2016

With families about to visit libraries in droves for summer reading programs, now is a great time for a parenting-through-the-years display, reminding moms and dads that librarians are a rich resource and valued partner in the health and growth of children of all ages. In this month’s column, there’s an element of fun, as several books focus on exploring the outdoors, nature crafts, and one’s curiosity. Have a child who won’t look up from the smartphone? Jonathan McKee has you covered with over 50 tips for bringing kids down from planet-E. In the latest edition of Fine Motor Skills for Children with Down Syndrome, Maryanne Bruni proves even youngsters with special needs will be out investigating and creating, and “Dr. Amy” Tuteur will raise eyebrows if not tempers with her look at motherhood in Push Back.

redstarBruni, Maryanne. Fine Motor Skills for Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals. 3d ed. Woodbine House. May 2016. 312p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781606132593. pap. $24.95. CHILD REARING

In this revised edition of the 2006 publication, veteran occupational therapist and mother of a daughter with Down syndrome Bruni offers a comprehensive guide to developing fine motor skills (FMS) that lead to independent living. Designed to be motivating, realistic, and practical, her breakdown of cultivating sensory processing and FMS uses materials and routines that are available at home and to any professional working with the child. Likening FMS to the construction of a house, Bruni lays a foundation of stability (strength and balance), bilateral coordination (holding a bowl with one hand while stirring with the other), sensation (an awareness of fingers, hands, and arms), and sensory processing (transforming and integrating information from the senses) as the building blocks of achieving long-term self-sufficiency. VERDICT Complete with sidebars, illustrations, adaptive techniques (using a hairband for pencil stability), and profiles of learners, this title is a required acquisition for all consumer health collections.

redstarGarlick, Hattie. Born To Be Wild: Hundreds of Free Nature Activities for Families. Bloomsbury Natural History. (RSPB). May 2016. 256p. photos by Nancy Honey. ISBN 978147291borntobewild.jpg516165337. pap. $22. CHILD REARING

Spring presents a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the outdoors, and with this title nearby, even smartphone-obsessed kids will soon be clamoring to plan an outing. Journalist Garlick joins with esteemed photographer Honey (National Media Museum, UK) to offer families a lively and endearing book on outdoor play. Beginning with the “Ten Commandments” for nurturing nature (respect wildlife, take your rubbish home with you, etc.), the text introduces four seasons of nature-­inspired craft activities such as leaf puppets, bark photo frames, feather headbands, and a wood louse maze. Each section is subdivided into categories such as grass, earth, clouds, and sand and offers a “toolkit” of supplies needed for parents. VERDICT These projects will appeal to and can be adapted for all kids. The photographs offer a work of art beyond their instructional nature. Enthusiastically ­recommended.

redstarLouv, Richard. Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life. Algonquin. Apr. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9781616205782. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616205614. CHILD REARING

The esteemed Louv (Last Child in the Woods) delivers a next-step handbook, picking up where The Nature Principle left off by providing over 500 accessible actions parents can take to resolve the nature-deficit disorder the author has so compellingly addressed over the years. Balancing the needs of time-stressed families with activities that appeal to different cultural backgrounds, and those that require organization as well as encourage independence, Louv strikes gold again. The author covers everything from choosing an off-road style stroller to crafting outdoor coupon books for day hikes and fishing trips. VERDICT Louv has become a national leader in advocating for kids to connect with nature. His macrovision of ecological health speaks beyond the benefits of youngsters getting dirty. Essential for all collections.

McKee, Jonathan. 52 Ways To Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid: How To Engage with Kids Who Can’t Seem To Pry Their Eyes from Their Devices! Shiloh Run. Jul. 2016. 192p. ISBN 9781634097079. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9781634098885. CHILD REARING

Author and speaker McKee (The Guy’s Guide to God, Girls, and the Phone in Your Pocket) has some solid ideas for communicating with young teens without taking the phone away and being viewed as the enemy. From spontaneous fro-yo outings to strategically playing dumb to more involved, far-reaching plans, such as purchasing a hot tub, McKee’s suggestions strive to start conversations that will let kids feel are self-initiated and without judgment. The author also points out “how teenagers struggle to look up from their devices” but recognize that mom and dad have the same challenge. VERDICT While the material might not be groundbreaking, the tips are valuable. ­Libraries needing an update to the subject area will find this a worthy addition.

redstarMurrie, Matt & Andrew R McHugh. The Book of What If…? Questions and Activities for Curious Minds. Beyond Words: Aladdin. Apr. 2016. 240p. illus. notes. ISBN 9781582705293. $18.99; ebk. ISBN 9781481430746. CHILD REARING

bookofwhatifweb.jpg51616Provocative and entertaining, this title from Murrie (English, Westminster Coll.) and soon-to-be human computer interaction grad McHugh presents a launching tool for exercising inquisitiveness, creativity, and worldviews. Organized into four parts (History, People, Stuff, and Nature), it proposes theoretical scenarios to stimulate discussion, imagination, problem solving, and areas for further thought. Appropriate for elementary-age children and up, questions span the sociological (“What If the South Won the Civil War?”) and the silly (What If Dinosaurs Didn’t Go Extinct?”). Using the latter as an example, each entry introduces the possibility of the topic and includes an activity (“Draw a picture of your house after it is Dino-proofed”). The quotes from children (of course they would ride their T. rex to school) illustrate the excitement sure to follow. VERDICT Kids love to be asked their opinions, and they’ll get a charge out of pondering such ticklers as “What If Kids Were Politicians?” A great choice for enhancing critical thinking skills.

redstarRioux, Jackie & Jo-Ann Parylak. Dear Daycare Parent: Over 101 Ways To Improve Your Child’s Experience. Dear Daycare Parent. Apr. 2016. 128p. illus by Heidi Graf. ISBN 9780692572498. $24.95. CHILD REARING

This visually pleasing title for day-care parents does not disappoint. Coauthors Rioux and Parylak have a combined 45-year track record in child development and education, experience that will help parents get the most from their day-care years. Suggestions range from the seemingly obvious (don’t dress children in overalls if they’re in toilet training) to advice for avoiding questions such as, “Mommy has to go to work now, OK?” Each point contains a key idea, summarizes the information’s importance, and provides real-life examples. Charming illustrations and book recommendations are included throughout. VERDICT ­Leaving one’s child in the care of another can be nerve-wracking, but the authors’ upbeat, long-term perspective will assist parents in valuing their providers and doing best by their offspring. For all libraries.

Trainor, Kathleen. Calming Your Anxious Child: Words To Say and Things To Do. Johns Hopkins. Jun. 2016. 264p. ISBN 9781421420097. $45; pap. ISBN 9781421420103. $18.95. CHILD REARING

Addressing everything from hair pulling and picky eating to post-traumatic stress disorder, child psychologist Trainor (Harvard Medical Sch.) provides a step-by-step approach to overcome worry-based behavior and empower both parent and child. She outlines how anxiety isn’t something kids outgrow but rather escalates over time, often leading to more severe emotional, social, academic, and occupational difficulties. Based on the author’s research, the eponymous Trainor method helps families tackle angst by targeting disquieting thoughts and behaviors, rating those actions, agreeing on which concerns to address, identifying and teaching practice strategies, noting and charting success, offering incentives for motivation, and reinforcing progress by increasing the challenges. VERDICT Anxiety can be a tough condition to beat, but parents with the organizational skills to stick to the Trainor approach will in all likelihood achieve ­improvement. A solid offering.

redstarTuteur, Amy. Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting. Dey St: HarperCollins. Apr. 2016. 357p. ISBN 9780062407344. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062407351. CHILD REARING

pushback.jpg51616Look out, ladies. This title is either the one we’ve been waiting for or the one we’re going to despise. Obstetrician-gynecologist Tuteur takes her medical experience, research, and mothering advocacy to a soon-to-be contentious level in a book that questions three of the most health-predictive “choices” pregnant women make: natural childbirth, breastfeeding, and attachment parenting (an emphasis on physical closeness between mother and infant). Here the author aims to “release women from the guilt trap created by the natural parenting industry,” which likens the idealization of childbirth to a “paleofantasy.” Arguing that there is “no benefit to refusing pain relief” and boldly claiming that there is “no evidence for any long-term health benefits of breastfeeding,” Tuteur will wage war with even C-section, formula-feeding mothers when she claims that “attachment parenting…is the feminine mystique writ large.” ­VERDICT This important book will undoubtedly receive much media attention and spark debate among parents, feminists, and the medical community. Fans and ­critics alike will be intrigued by Tuteur’s ideas.

Julianne Smith received her BA in English and her MS in Information from the University of Michigan. She has been a librarian for over 20 years and an LJ reviewer for nearly ten. She currently serves as Assistant Director, Ypsilanti District Library, MI. Parenting consumes much of her time outside of work, and it’s a good thing she writes this column because her twins give her a run for her money on a daily basis

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

SELF-eLearn More
SELF-e is an innovative collaboration between Library Journal and BiblioBoard® that enables authors and libraries to work together and expose notable self-published ebooks to voracious readers looking to discover something new. Finally, a simple and effective way to catalog and provide access to ebooks by local authors and build a community around indie writing!


  1. Naomi Erlich says:

    Awesome list here! I really think that “Born to Be Wild” looks like an incredible read. It’s so important to connect kids with nature. Thanks for sharing!