by Joanna BrichettoNovember 2012
Smart activities for kids
Introduce kids to bird-watching with Sharon Lovejoy’s My First Bird Book and Bird Feeder, which includes a just-right guide and a window-mount feeder. The feeder, made of biodegradable plastic, is easy to fill and clean. The guide’s instructions for making homemade feeders and tips for turning your backyard into a bird haven will ensure even more bird traffic. The author’s joy in her subject radiates from sweet illustrations and enthusiastic guidance. She urges kids to look for clues: the shape of a beak, the sound of a call, the look of a feather, bird behaviors and even bird poop. Readers can turn to the Bird Guide for simple descriptions, identification clues and fun facts for 34 of the most common species. But benefits of watching birds go beyond fun: In addition to developmental skills, bird-watching builds a love of the natural world and can foster a lifelong sense of environmental stewardship.
“Storytelling is the most perfect, most nourishing food for growing minds,” writes teacher and crafter Emily K. Neuburger, author of Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling. The book is aimed at anyone who wants to help kids “begin, develop and play with storytelling.” According to Neuburger’s introduction, stories exercise creativity, expand emotional awareness and encourage children to see connections, practice communicating, solve problems and develop moral thinking. Children can start stories with visual prompts such as story dice, then develop their tales with a puppet theater, a storytelling jar, memory cards and more. Activities are indoor and outdoor, structured and unstructured, solo or collaborative, gender-neutral and adaptable to any skill level. Photos of materials, projects and games are plentiful and inspirational.
TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES
Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun is a comprehensive program of boredom-killing activities for kids and their parents. From one digestible and graphically enhanced nutshell to the next, this veritable bible of self-reliance would have had Emerson dancing for joy at the assembled ingredients for a productive and well-examined life: You get what you want by understanding who you are, redefining what you want and learning to “create instead of consume.” Authors Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen (and many contributors from blogs and books) share ideas, activities, projects and resources in four main categories: You, Home, Society and Adventure. Crammed within these are convenient, two-page spreads such as: “Train Your Grownup to Geocache,” “Keep a Journal,” “Explode Things,” “Toaster Science” and “Decorate Your Sneakers.” The activities guarantee something for everyone, be it “indoors, outdoors, online and offline.” Many assume collusion with a willing (and strategically unobtrusive) grownup.