Richard Louv has written a bestseller that has swept the minds of a nation. Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder is a resource for parents or anyone interested in child development who wants to understand why kids can be floundering in a time where they seem to have it all.
His research is focused mostly in the U. S. and how the health, spiritual well-being and mental state of children is being adversely effected by our culture's lack of direct contact with nature. This is a penetrating look at children today and where this disconnect has grown from.
Louv (a member of the baby-boomer generation) recalls a somewhat idyllic time in his youth. He built forts in the woods and was able to roam the neighbourhood without adult supervision. He makes allowances in the way he raised his own children that children can not expect to have the same freedom today but he gives some examples of how to negotiate that. Giving your child the chance to feel free and connect with nature while keeping them safe.
Nature-deficit disorder is a term that Louv has coined to categorize a growing problem, therefore it is not a medical diagnosis. Video games, television, and Internet distractions are keeping children indoors and plugged in for hours a day. This trend can be linked to the growing obesity rate in children despite an increase in the amounts of organized sports. This is also a cause of the growing rate of mood disorders such as: ADD and ADHD. Louv calls for increased research into his thesis but the small studies he cited all found correlations between increased nature exposure and interaction with behavior improvements in children with mood disorders.
In his chapter on spirituality and nature I found he could have delved deeper. Louv was appealing to the masses in organized religion. He seemed to feel the need to convince more fundamental Christians that "God's dominion" was worth saving and that "nature worship" was not going to be the result of children having a deep connection with the natural world. Perhaps he felt that delving into native cultures and/or pagan spiritual beliefs would be too alienating for his target audience or perhaps he didn't research that angle at all. He did blend a psychology perspective into his argument to convince the reader that children do have spiritual capacities. I think that was preaching to the choir a bit but valid to some readers I'm sure.
Overall this is a wonderful work with inspiring personal stories and the revised version even has a field guide in the back. It has birthed movements across the U.S. forming groups of parents and kids wanting to keep a passion for nature in their hearts.
For more information about connecting your child with nature visit:
Children & Nature Network