Title: Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
Author: Richard Louv
More than ever before, kids are staying inside and/or living in areas with limited access to the natural world. Richard Louv shows how this disconnection from nature is contributing to the rapidly rising rates of childhood depression, anxiety, ADHD, and obesity, and additionally is a factor in juvenile delinquency. He then further explains how, with a return to nature, many of these problems can be reversed.
Parts I liked best:
When I first picked up this book, I wondered how someone could write over 300 pages on the subject. I thought, “Okay, get your kids to play outside more, and they’ll be less likely to get ADHD. What more can you say?” But this book surprised me with its depth and breadth. Here are some of my main takeaways:
- Children need unstructured, outside playtime every day. All time spent outside is not created equal. Organized sports, although beneficial, do not give the same stress-relieving benefits as unstructured time in less-manicured, more natural settings. Louv encourages parents to establish a daily “green hour” for their families. This can contribute to a much more active lifestyle, encourage creative play, and lead to a significant decrease in stress.
- Time in nature teaches respect for nature. Children care for what they know. Kids will be more respectful towards nature if they are intimately familiar with it. Passive activities, like four-wheeling, are not as beneficial in building respect as active ones, like identifying trees or finding fossils.
- Nature is a key to helping children develop spiritually. Many children recall having profound spiritual experiences alone in nature. I know this is true for me as well.
- Cities and HOAs potentially hinder outdoor play by sometimes not building play areas, banning bikes and skateboards, prohibiting the construction of tree houses, and prescribing how homeowners’ back and front yards should look. Other roadblocks to outdoor play include fear of strangers, fear of nature itself (bugs, West Nile virus, etc.), preoccupation with technology, and overscheduling. I had not thought about all these factors before, and this new awareness will guide my choices in where I choose to live and how I choose to talk to my children about the outdoors.
- We all need time outside. When parents think of outdoor play as a necessity rather than a luxury, it becomes a priority. By viewing time in nature as stress-relieving and necessary—for yourself as well as your children—you will likely be more motivated to make it happen.
How this book made an impact in my life, especially as a mother:
More than anything, this book motivated me to make time in nature a priority for my family. Since reading it, my husband and I have actively spent more time with our one-year-old son at the park, playing in the dirt, and watching the birds.
This isn’t easy because we live on the second floor of an apartment building, and we don’t have a backyard or a safe patio to play on. But I’ve forced myself to get more creative. We live next door to a church that has a gravel path, and my son loves to play with the rocks. We also spend time wandering the sidewalks around our complex, watching the squirrels, lizards, and stray cats. My son loves our time outdoors—and now is the one to ask for it.
I am also even more excited to plan future outdoor activities with my children including hiking, camping, gardening, raising butterflies, and collecting rocks. I’m excited for days spent at the beach and vacations to the lake. And I look forward to helping my older children find time for private solace in nature, as I, too, have had powerful, defining experiences thinking and reading alone in the woods.
Most of all, I hope I can instill in my children an appreciation for this beautiful earth and, by doing so, help them discover who they really are.
QUESTION: How has spending time in nature helped you release stress, focus better, feel happier, or be more creative? How can we help our children spend more quality time in nature?
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This book rings so true for us. We’ve been very tight-fisted about buying toys for our children, but go all out when it comes to outdoor clothing. As they say in Sweden (where kids play outside year round): There is no such thing as bad weather; it’s merely inadequate clothing. (so yes, that means I have my own set of “technical” gear; so I can be out there with them).
Sarah Monson says
That is wonderful! I thought about how the “green hour” he mentions, is really “white hour” half the year for some people. I’m glad you don’t let the weather deter outdoor play!
Last Child in the Woods is my favorite “parenting” book. I love how Richard Louv is so optimistic.
Rachel Nielson says
Awesome! Spending time outside every day is one of my strategies for fighting depression. So important to make this a priority for our children!!
The kids had a day off from school today and as I had seen your review a few days earlier so I decided to take them to have a picnic lunch at a nearby canyon/campground area. It was so beautiful with the fall leaves and we marveled at a woodpecker and later on at tiny bugs on the back of a leaf! I was grateful we got outside. Another benefit of getting outside together I noticed was that we were all relaxed and happy, we were speaking kindly and in a friendly way to each other, and we were all having a chance to connect in a relaxed way. That isn’t always the case when we have been indoors together all day! Thanks for sharing. Winter is on the way, but I’m going to try to get outside more even when it’s cold in these coming months.
Sarah Monson says
Thanks for sharing! And I agree. The relaxation that comes from being outside helps my son cooperate and play better as well. And often I think his “bad behavior” is really a manifestation of the need to release energy outside!
Amanda Hamilton Roos says
I’ve been wanting to check out this book. Thanks for the review!