Monday, September 28, 2009

Last Child in the Woods

Last Friday, my wife and I went to see Richard Louv speak.  Richard is the author of Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder.

His book and talk center on a series of alarming developments in the lives of America's children:
  • increasing divide between the young and the natural world
  • loss of freedom and time alone for children to explore the woods, local creek, etc.
  • growth in structured "play dates" and the decline of time to create play, particularly play outside
  • fear of traffic and strangers that keeps kids inside rather than outside running around and exploring
The talk mirrored an article I read about a study in the UK.  A few stats follow to set the tone:
  • Less than 10% play of children play in natural settings compared to 40% of adults when they were young.
  • Three quarters of adults claimed to have had a patch of nature near their homes and over half went there at least once or twice a week. 64% of children reckon they have a patch of nature near their homes but less than a quarter go there once or twice a week.
 What are the costs of the children losing access to time in nature?

Louv notes research that links nature deficiency disorder with very real mental health challenges (ADD, ADHD) and physical fitness ailments (childhood obesity, diabetes).

For many, time in nature is therapeutic and calming. For parents and adults, it is important that we are aware the growing loss of access to the outdoors that many children face and that we work to lead or sponsor day hikes, fishing trips, camping outings, and other means that allow children the joy that comes from freedom to play, catch frogs, get the great outdoors.