Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book Review: Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative & Naturally Curious Children

Book Title: Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative & Naturally Curious Children
Author: Ginger Carlson
Year of Publication: 2008
Reviewer: Sarah Komendat, CRS 625, Spring 2010

Child of Wonder offers parents insights and ideas into how their child’s brain works and what activities can be done together as families. Ginger Carlson recorded this information for parents after she herself became a parent and realized that children deserve more credit than what they are given. She is also passionate about helping and teaching children to keep their “wonder” into adulthood, since so many people lose their spirit of play as they grow-up (p. XV). The reason why I chose this particular book to review is because I too am curious why people give up playing. I also wanted to see what kinds of activities I can implement within my family to foster creativity. The following paragraphs are a review of Child of Wonder.

A very helpful tool for parents / teachers is the “creativity busters” section on pages eight and nine. The section lists phrases that will hinder and bust creativity, and it warns parents of the implications of saying the busters. Readers may connect Carlson’s “creativity busters” with Gary Davis’ “creativity squelchers”. Knowing what busts or squelches creativity is valuable for parents to know since many people blurt out phrases like “act your age” or “don’t paint that the wrong color” without even thinking. It is good that Carlson made readers aware of unintentional wrongdoings.

The theme of the book is an overall strive to make learning fun, placing a solid emphasis on connecting learning to play. Play is a very valuable learning tool that often gets taken for granted. People (children and adults) do not play enough. Carlson does an excellent job of showing parents how to play and join in on “childish” activities with their families. Particularly with the cooking and “yes day” activities, she informs readers of the amazing potential growth from allowing children to experiment with unordinary elements. Carlson relates to Mainemelis’ and Ronson’s (2006) theory that “creativity is born out of some form or moment of play” (p. 85). By experimenting with cooking recipes, a child may create the family’s new favorite dish.

In each chapter Carlson displays a picture book list. At the end of each section she gives parents a list of books that may enhance their child’s curiosity in that section’s subject matter. This is a valuable tool for parents that want to expose their child to a variety of activities to find their interests.

Possibly the greatest potential this book has to offer is that it might help adults become more playful and creative. By reading this book, parents will gain insights about why playing with their children is so valuable to the relationships that they build with their children. Play is helpful for an adult’s business life as well. Statler, Roos, and Victor (2009) made a case for play to be a necessity for success in the workplace, and that adults often fail to “keep imagining” (2009). When a whole family plays together, every individual in that family benefits.
Teaching children how to play and discover has potential to enhance their social learning skills. Through guided play and creative activities, a child’s self-control, self-regulation, and self-efficacy can blossom (Snowman, McCown, & Biehler, 2009). Many of Carlson’s suggestions for activities cater best to pre-school age children, in the hopes of getting them ready for kindergarten.

One concern about the book is how to better construct the title of the book so that readers can know that the book will be mostly about learning and how to make learning fun, with creativity as a subset. Carlson often refers to children as “your learners” implying that the suggested activities stress learning over creativity. A possibly better title is, “Child of Wonder: Nurturing Learning and Creativity using the Arts in Curious Children.”

Carlson gave a plethora of activities to do with children, but she leaves readers with little insight about why those activities work. To better educate the readers about why the activities are valuable, in a future edition, Carlson may want to figure out how to add more scientific research backing to each chapter. Cornett (2007) provides a similar theme to her book, Creating Meaning Through Literature and the Arts. For a more detailed introduction of why play and learning go so well together, readers should invest in Cornett’s book.

Overall, Child of Wonder is a great read. Anyone who wants ideas for bringing creativity to their household should consider purchasing Child of Wonder. Readers must understand that these activities need not only be done with children, but can be fun for adults as well. My highest recommendation for this book goes out to parents who want to foster creativity in and grow a meaningful relationship with their children.


Cornett, C. E. (2007). Creating meaning through literature and the arts: an integration resource for classroom teachers. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

Davis, G. A. (2004). Creativity is forever. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Snowman, J., McCown, R., & Biehler, R. (2009). Psychology applied to teaching. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Statler, M., Roos, J., & Victor, B. (2009). Ain’t misbehavin’: taking play seriously in organizations. Journal of Change Management, 9(1), 87-107.

Mainemelis, C., & Ronson, S. (2006). Ideas are born in fields of play: towards a theory of play and creativity in organizational settings. Research in Organizational Behavior, 27, 81-131.

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