Children and Parenting
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from
Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.
Richard Louv, a journalist, has
written several books concerning children.
Childhood’s Future, published in 1990, looks directly at
the trends affecting family and parenting and suggests solutions.
This new book follows the same format but looks specifically at the
dwindling place nature has in the life of the nation’s children.
Writing as a journalist, the author looks to all sources in his
exploration of the topic. Louv’s
experiences with his own children and the opinion of other ordinary
parents are mingled with the judgment of experts about a growing concern
that nature’s effect on children is essential and missing.
To start, new research has discovered that the symptoms of
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are improved with exposure
to nature. The author coins
the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” (it is not yet a generally accepted
medical term like ADHD) to describe the negative effects separation from
nature has on communities, families and children.
I was a kid, you fell down, you got up, so what; you learned to deal with
the consequences. I broke this arm twice. Today,
if a parent sends you a kid without a scratch,
they better come back that wa
Beyond parental constraints, there’s urban sprawl and the general
loss of nature in our lives. There
are concerns about insurance, among other influences, that have lead to
prohibitions on children’s play in vacant lots, restrictions on the
building of tree houses, the replacement of more natural playgrounds with
commercial playgrounds at theme parks and fast food restaurants and other
influences that interfere with children’s proximity to nature. Louv and
other feel a proximity to nature is important to children for many
"Our study found that life’s stressful events appear
not to cause as much stress in children who
live in high-nature conditions compared to children who live in
Research on the effects of nature on children is just beginning but
studies show that play is more imaginative in natural settings and that
children can concentrate better after being in nature.
Above its beneficial effects on creativity and school performance,
nature has deeper more spiritual effects.
One teacher described in the book places a butterfly on
"Noses seem to make
perfectly good perches or basking spots, and the insect often remains
time. Almost everyone is
delighted by this, the close-up colors, the thread of a tongue probing for
droplets of perspiration. But
somewhere beyond delight lies enlightenment.
I have been astonished at the small epiphanies I see in the eyes of
a child in truly close contact with nature,
perhaps for the first time."
The book goes on to detail many innovative ways that parents, schools and communities are bringing nature back for their children and themselves. The main thrust of Louv’s book, however, moves us to understand how profoundly important nature is to children. References and quotations concerning peak or ecstatic experiences in nature, the “sacred” little hiding places children can find and find solace in, the joys of climbing trees, the lessons in building tree houses and the like weave through the book. Louv convincingly concludes that, “To take nature and natural play from a child may be tantamount to withholding oxygen.”