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.
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.
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.
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?