Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv focused on how our interactions with nature have changed, starting as young children. The author discusses how in generations past kids often lived on farms, or in a rural setting, but even urban kids played outside after school in alleys and yards. He also covers the topic of screen time, which has been somewhat over played in the media lately, but Louv raises many good points about it. For many reasons, society has changed and kids spend a lot of time inside with a screen. He talks about how there are many more entertainment options now, such as tablets and smart phones, but what he talked about that really spoke to me was our fear. I hadn’t thought about the many ways fear has changed the way we as a society interact with the world around us.
Fear of abduction, fear of our kids getting hurt, fear of the unknown; these fears lead us to keep our kids inside. This fear has also led to a more litigious society so that places don’t allow kids to build tree-houses or forts, and people would rather set up organized sports (which certainly have their own injury rates) than let their kids wander around the woods climbing on trees over streams. I have plenty of my own fears about my kids, and I see so many fears in new parents who want to get outside with their new babies but who are overwhelmed, tired, and scared. They are scared of the weather, scared of forgetting something, scared of so many things. That’s one reason I love having a group there, ready to support and help – because those are two things we as parents always need.
I read a lot of parenting books – I worry all the time about the many ways I could be failing at motherhood, and so I read a ton of books hoping that will help me mess up less. This book kept me hooked. It was full of factual information about how nature, and lack of nature, affects us all. Prison inmates and hospital patients do better with windows facing trees rather than a parking lot or other building; when given a choice kids prefer to play in the grass and trees rather than play structures; the differences in focusing abilities with kids who have unstructured time out in nature. What really interested me was that organized sports, even those outside, do not have the same effect on children as free play in nature.
Even having done reading into this idea of kids in nature, I learned quite a bit from the book, and also felt like my lifestyle was even further validated. I enjoyed the read, learned some things, and I’m looking forward to reading his new book.
Nicole Hammond is a branch lead for Metro Detroit, mama of 2 and wife of 1. A Yoga teacher and grad student in environmental policy and planning, she also enjoys running, coffee, hiking, coffee, yoga, and microbrews.