Book Review: It’s a Jungle Out There! 52 Nature Adventures for City Kids

The following post is by contributor NJ Renie.

As parents, we hope our children will be just like us. Or at least like the better parts of us. I’m a country guy, but I love parenting in the big city.  My daughter has opportunities that I couldn’t have imagined when I was a kid, they’re virtually limitless and all within a few minutes of the front door.

That being said, I know that there will be times when I’ll wish I could just open that door, country-parent style, and tell her: Go explore, see you at supper. Wild and free in the country was a great way to grow up, and I’ve always been disappointed that my daughter will never really understand that freedom fully.

Needless to say, during a recent visit to my parents, when she saw the river that I grew up on and called it a “fountain,” I was, admittedly, a little panicked.

As if on cue, Jennifer Ward has come to save the day with It’s a Jungle Out There!, her collection of 52 nature activities for city kids. A country kid turned city parent herself, Ward focuses on activities that cultivate awareness of the natural world found in the city environment.

The Activities

It’s a Jungle Out There! is packed with activities designed to stimulate both curiosity and appreciation of nature. Arranged seasonally, including some indoor activities for nasty weather days, the activities include habitat identification and cultivation, camouflage, cataloging, journaling, and more. There are few old standbys (the old sprouting potato trick, calculating the distance of lightning strikes), but fresh takes like exploring the finer points of pigeon biology or the microhabitats in tree bark make this an attractive addition to your parenting bookshelf.

A Goal-Oriented Approach

To help guide you in your choices, each activity ends by stating its underlying goal clearly, e.g. “This activity promotes observation, awareness, and research skills.” Those prompts make this book an excellent resource for parents, childcare providers, and educators—home or professional. By concentrating her effort on the end goals and keeping the activities simple, Ward has kept them adaptable enough to be used in groups of children at various ages.

Planning Help

Though this is a book made with kids in mind, It’s a Jungle Out There! is more like a teacher’s guide than a workbook, containing many features for the lesson planner in all of us. Ward includes supplementary readings, activities, and web resources, for kids and parents alike. And in spite of the volume’s compact size, the publisher has even left ample room for notes.

For Everyone

It’s a Jungle Out There! is a fun activity book with a clear goal in mind: teaching kids to find and understand the natural world of cities. But it’s fun that asks for the focus, on your part and your child’s part, that nature deserves. For that reason, It’s a Jungle Out There! is destined to benefit kids as well as the adults using it.

Are you a country kid or a city kid? How about your kids? What’s nature like in your neck of the woods?

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  1. I am a country girl raising my toddler in a big city. I love showing her birds and bugs and helping her collect leaves, sticks and rocks. There are so many parks here. Several are within walking distance. We spend time outside almost every day. I can’t wait to read this book and use it to help me give my daughter some of the same nature experiences I had growing up. Thanks for this review!

  2. I’m a city girl from Southern California raising my kids in the country in Georgia. Isn’t it funny how some of us do a 180 when we “grow up”?

  3. I learned how to milk our cow, raise chickens, and never wore shoes as a kid. Now I live in Manhattan with three little ones (4yrs, 2yrs & 9mos) in a small 1 bedroom apt. Thank heavens for Central Park! We were just there, digging for worms yesterday. I dream of days where my kids can go outside to explore on their own. I miss the country so much sometimes but I love that my daughter is in a fantastic school across the street and all my needs are within a 10 min walk.
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  4. I think it’s a really good idea to show kids in the city and in the country how to see nature and other things that they might otherwise miss. This guide seem like it would be a great complement to getting kids who live in the city to see more of what’s “naturally” around them.
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