By Mary Muscari University of Scranton Press, 2006 Review by Christine Valarde on Sep 29th 2009
Let Kids Be Kids: Rescuing Childhood was written by pediatric nursing specialist Mary Muscari and has been marketed as a guide for parents to raise happy, well-adjusted children, who will then grow up to become happy, well-adjusted adults. Muscari argues in this book that childhood is an essential time for many vital and universal experiences that will shape the minds and bodies of all children into happy and productive members of society. In Let Kids Be Kids, Muscari identifies fourteen essential aspects of childhood that she claims are often ignored and even threatened by today’s society. These aspects must be introduced into a child’s life in order for him or her to grow into a happy, healthy adult. These aspects include Love and Attention, Health, Safety, Family, Uniqueness, Heroes, Citizenship, Spirituality, Creativity, Nature, Unstructured Play, Joyful Noise, and Youthful Innocence. The author explains why each of these aspects is important to a child’s development and future well-being, and offers examples of activities or discussions that parents can use to help promote each aspect in their child.
One of the messages of the book -- that children need time to play on their own or with their peers without structured or planned activities -- is a welcome call to remedy the current parental culture of pushing children into constant activities and lessons to encourage a child’s excellence and perceived success. Muscari argues that other social and individual enrichment needs are more important to a child’s development into a self-confident and fulfilled adult.
This book may be useful for some first-time parents looking for general ideas to encourage the development of emotional maturity in their child. Her suggestions for activities to help develop an aspect of a child’s character will be welcomed by parents, as they are specific and clear ideas of what they can do in their homes, in addition to the developmental and psychological theory.
However, experienced parents and child health care professionals will be frustrated by too-basic statements and suggestions that will not be relevant to most readers: for example, that HIV and AIDS affects the health of a child is not a revelation, nor is a child’s need to have good adult role models. Muscari sometimes gives obvious advice, which may be helpful to those who have never spent time around children, but is dull and superfluous to those who have. In addition, most readers will be put off by the long bullet-pointed lists in which Muscari uses -- frequently -- to offer ideas and arguments. These lists are perhaps meant to be succinct, but readers will feel as if they are looking at a grocery shopping list instead of a well-thought out argument.