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UTHSC Occupational Therapy Professor Writes Second Book on Back-to-Basics Parenting

‘Retro Toddler,’ the second parenting book by UTHSC’s Anne Zachry, offers best practices for helping a toddler develop.

In 2013, when Anne Zachry, PhD, OTR/L, wrote her first book about back-to-basics parenting of babies, she queried many publishers before the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) accepted it for publication. That book, “Retro Baby,” was so popular that the AAP asked Dr. Zachry, a professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, to write a second book for parents of slightly older children.

Dr. Zachry’s “Retro Toddler” is being released by the AAP May 15. Subtitled, “More than 100 Old-School Activities to Boost Development,” the book encourages parents of toddlers, ages 1-3 years old, to favor personal interaction with their babies over technology in order to help them best develop.

“The basic message of the book, similar to “Retro Baby,” is back to the basics with parenting, lower tech, more DIY toys and activities, and the importance of interacting with your toddler one on one, rather than putting them in front of a screen and hoping they’ll learn that way,” Dr. Zachry said.

“Based on established research that I found, the child never retains anything from the screen,” she said. “They retain what’s in person.” The AAP recommends limiting screen time for ages 2 to 5 to one hour per day.

In pulling the book together, Dr. Zachry studied best practices, the most up-to-date research, and incorporated the latest recommendations from the AAP.

“Retro Toddler” includes fun activities to boost development of language, movement, and social skills, as well as practical advice, from Dr. Zachry, including:

  • Dealing with “No”: “Unless it’s a safety issue, avoid having toddlers dig their heels in, and work around it, so they don’t realize they’re giving up control and power.”
  • Praise: “Don’t say, ‘you’re so smart.’ Say, ‘you worked hard on that,’ so it tells them the value of work.”
  • Promote creativity. “It’s OK to have them be bored, because they’ll come up with ideas to entertain themselves, and that’s where creativity comes from.”

All of the children photographed in the book (excluding the cover shot) were taken at Advent Presbyterian Preschool in Arlington by Memphian Jane Pate.

Dr. Anne Zachry

With more than 25 years in clinical and academic pediatric occupational therapy, Dr. Zachry is well-versed in early childhood development. Her research has been published in national peer-reviewed journals, trade magazines, and parenting publications and websites, including Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, Parents.com, SheKnows, and Education.com. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association. Her blog, Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips, averages 30,000 hits a month and was recognized by Feedspot as one of the top 12 pediatric OT blogs. “Retro Baby” won the Independent Bookseller’s Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal.

“I feel like this is such an important message for parents to hear,” Dr. Zachry said. “It’s put out in a way that’s not meant to make you feel guilty, but just to know that this is best practice, and if you know better, you can do better.”

“Retro Toddler: More Than 100 Old-School Activities to Boost Development,” $16.95, is available on the AAP website at https://shop.aap.org/publications/books/.