Book Review: Why Boys are Different by Bonnie MacMillan

I checked this book out from the Clive Library, as the particular challenges in raising boys has been of interest to me since, well, giving birth to one two years ago! However, despite its title, the book would also make good reading for those who are raising girls. Its focus is not solely on boys, but rather the differences between the sexes and how differences in brain structure and functioning might cause those differences. It also delves somewhat into general parenting, and gives research-based advice that leans very heavily towards attachment parenting ideals – breastfeeding, responding quickly to a baby’s cries, etc.


Here are a few highlights from the book – some of my favorite passages – for your enjoyment.


In a section discussing how the five senses are different in boys and girls, Ms. MacMillan writes, “But why are little boys fascinated with objects that dive and zoom – with toy cars, planes, trains, balls, and anything that can be turned into a projectile? This, too, may come down to an interesting difference in the order in which visual abilities develop. In a study that measured the brain waves of children from two months of age to sixteen years, it was discovered that boys’ brains really go to town between tow months and six years in developing the neural networks for visually tracking objects. Astonishingly, girls’ brains do not spear to make a serious start on these networks until the age of eight!”


In a chapter discussing the importance of nutrition in maintaining optimal health and optimal brain development, she writes, “When children with ADHD (the majority were boys) were put on a multiple-item elimination diet, 73 percent responded favorably. When various high-allergen foods (dairy products, wheat, corn, yeast, soya, beans, citrus, eggs, chocolate, peanuts) and foods containing artificial colors or preservatives were reintroduced, children behaved markedly worse.”


When discussing motor skills, Ms. MacMillan lists some recent study findings, including this one: “Babies brought up in certain traditional cultures (African, Indian, and Latin American) tend to develop motor skills more rapidly than those brought up in westernized societies. It is thought this is cause parents in industrialized countries rely more on equipment to carry or contain their babies while they do daily chores. Mothers in traditional cultures, however, often carry their babies in slings for most of the day, forcing their babies’ brains to work harder to maintain balance and support their heads, stimulating both motor and vestibular development.


The book does have one big disappointment – Ms. MacMillan summarizes research studies like it’s going out of style. Almost everything she says in the book is backed up by research. Except she doesn’t provide the actual citations, so the reader can’t go read the research for themselves. In particular, I was interested in looking up the actual study that suggests that sling-wearing helps with motor skill development!!


I do highly recommend this book. It’s an easy read, and gives a lot of good information on brain development and general child development in a very consumable format. It’s a fantastic book for parents of boys, but would also be interesting to parents of girls.

First Annual Natural Living Expo In Review

The final stats are not yet in, but early estimates are that nearly 500 people (not counting children) visited the first annual Natural Living Expo hosted by ICAN and Drake University Women’s Studies Department. We didn’t know what to expect, but I personally think that 500 people is pretty good for the first year!

The vendors were pretty interesting, and a nice mix. There were of course many vendors dealing with childbirth – Amy Murphy’s new venture Before and After the Birth, the Birth Center, Cosette Boone of Willowsong Midwifery, Diane Tinker of Birth Companions, and more. And several parenting-related vendors such as Wallypop and The Stork Wearhouse, both cloth diaper and baby sling stores in town; NINO; the Cloth Diaper Crowd; Holistic Moms Network; API; etc. But it was great to see so many non-parenting resources there, as well. One Step At A Time Gardens, a CSA, was there. Iowa Health Freedom Coalition. Several Chiropractors. An Herbalist – Natural Choices from Eastern Iowa. An orchard.

I was busy running my own booth, but did escape for a few minutes to run around and visit other booths quick. I wish I’d had more time to chat with all the vendors! It seems that visitors were generally pleased with the event, and I know that for me personally, it was nice to be in a room full of people who see things the way I do. And to see so many babies being worn! What a great sight that was!! It was a long, tiring day, but very exciting as well. Here’s to a great time planning next year’s event!

PS – here are a few of the pictures I took of the day.