My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Last Child in the Woods [Bookreview]

I am not one to review books but the “Last Child in the Woods – Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv just seemed too perfect of a book for me not to recommend to the many home schoolers, educators and parents that visit this blog. Louv goes into great depth about how our children are increasingly disconnected from nature and why it is important to have our children around nature.

Spring Salamander on Fossil Hunt
Spring Salamander found during a Fossil Hunt.

Louv spends a good majority of the book discussing the importance of allowing children to play outside in “green” areas instead of staying inside playing computer games or watching television! I specifically remember when he talked about “nature is about smelling, hearing, tasting and seeing”!! I am not sure his exact wording . . . . but he talked about how smelling, tasting and feeling can not be obtained by our current internet obsessed world!! He clams that too many of our children learn about nature by the internet (things that can be googable) or by videos you might find on television. He feels that their just isn’t enough personal exploring happening in our own backyard hillsides.

Kids in the Bear Cave
Kids exploring the Bear Caves.

Louv relates the obesity of children to the result of kids not being allowed to play outside and instead spend their day eating junk food, watching television or playing those computer games. Louv does bring up how we yell at our children for not being outside but then the parents will not allow them to play too far from the back door due to liabilities and fears of kidnappers. What I found most interesting was the chapter discussing how children’s lack of nature has resulted in problems with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Those kids who had ADHD were the kids who were praised in the olden days and they would be the hardest workers on the farms. The children would leave the farm property to explore, go fishing or go hunting. They were not cooped up in the house and medicated like most of today’s children are (he does mention cases where medication is required).

Don't move, I almost have it!
Kids Playing in the Stream.

Overall, this was a wonderful book and I especially liked reading about the wonderful things that our local Roger Tory Peterson Institute has been doing with teaching teachers how to involve nature into their classrooms. What is ironic is that many of the kids you see on this blog have assisted in some of those RTPI trainings with the teachers he discussed!

Banding Demo
A banding demo with teachers taking the RTPI training class.

So . . . . if you are a parent, educator or even a home schooler . . . . Please Read This Book!! It isn’t the easiest book to read but it does have some very interesting things that might motivate you kicking your children outside for a few hours instead of allowing them to continue playing on those computer game (did you read that J??)!!

I see many children through my many nature activities that I am currently doing and it always come back to the parents being the reason I never see the kids again. Kids are more than willing to wake up at 5am to band birds but it is those parents who don’t want to wake up that are denied the many opportunities available to their children!! Or the parents don’t want to loose their Saturday mornings for some birds, etc. . . . Those kids you see regularly on this blog have had many opportunities to learn about trees, flowers, birds and writing about nature, etc . . . . but the truth is that these kids are so involved with nature because their parents are encouraging that nature be in their life!! Those kids love nature so much that they could possibly become our last child in the woods.


EDIT:  I want to include this NPR Morning Edition Story on saving kids from “Nature Deficit Disorder”!

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30 responses

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Nature is the Greatest Classroom ever created and the Library is full of infinate learnings. I always include my Kids whenever possible and I have started taking Birds of Prey to School and Banding them there with a Young Audience. The undivided attention that the students show is unbelievable. The Teachers feel that it helps them in their regular classes afterwards as well.When we release them the Kids all Clap and Cheer and then the Questions come.
    Somewhere in those young students is our next Roger Tory Peterson or David Suzuki!

    17 November 2007 at 5:31 pm

  2. It seems intuitive that being cooped up all day and not given any time to be outdoors would really be problematic for young, growing minds. Yet, most children spend their times indoors and on the internet or watching TV. Passive. Engagement with the natural world is one of the best ways to initiate a desire for saving it.

    17 November 2007 at 5:40 pm

  3. Monarch, I wanted to thank you for such an inspirational message and for the recommendation. (I just discovered you write as well as you photograph!) It really sounds like the kind of book right up my alley – I’ll ask my hubby if I can have it for Christmas. Being both a mom and an OCD nature lover myself – I loved the term, “Nature-Deficit Disorder” that is really awesome. My daughter just learned how to “noodle” or catch a little trout by using her hands. This was taught to her via her friend at a campout… I have never met a person who could noodle a fish well, until my daughter. (She put the fish back in the water he was too small to keep) but I also worry (along side of your well brought up concerns) that history will be lost as well. How to make a cool log cabin, or a lean-to, how to make fire (without rolling pushing a thermometer’s little peg) etc… Did you know you can buy in a package and microwave smores now? My goodness, if at some point in their life if kid has not counted stars then they probably were never a kid. Great piece!!

    17 November 2007 at 5:44 pm

  4. Oh, I can just feel your passion coming out in this post, Tom! Thank you sooo much for this review and this great book recommendation. I absolutely *love* the photo of the boy holding the spring salamander. Keep up the great work working with the kids! You rock, for sure!

    17 November 2007 at 6:31 pm

  5. @ Garth – for sure it is the greatest classroom! I think its great you are able to get kids involved with your banding! We need many more like yourself! Thanks!
    @ Robin – many times the city children don’t know anything but exploring the inside of their house! When they are allowed outside, they don’t know what to do with themselves! Or we have placed that fear in their mind that something is going to get them!! We need to change those current practices!
    @ aullori – Thanks for your kind words and really we need to thank R. Louv for writing this book and trying to make a difference! I wrote about much of his discussion in the book and I needed it to share with everyone! Thanks but I am far from a good writer but it is getting better! I think this book would be right up your alley and a defiant for your Christmas list!! Noodling is a great talent to have and would love to see pictures of that one of these days! Thanks again!
    @ Pam – thanks and from previous discussions about this book, I do consider this to be a must read book! I sure hope you enjoy it when you read it! Thanks!

    17 November 2007 at 6:36 pm

  6. I love this post and couldn’t agree more. Nature just doesn’t compare (in the eyes of kids) to video games and computers with their fast paced graphics. You’re right when you say it all depends on the parents. I’ve been guilty of “giving in” when little ones complain about going with me on a walk… but when they go, they alway find things to be interested in!

    17 November 2007 at 6:49 pm

  7. Good for you, Mon@rch, absolutely, it’s so important that they begin to love our precious planet…for themselves, for all of us.

    17 November 2007 at 6:58 pm

  8. Great blog! Looks good!

    17 November 2007 at 7:18 pm

  9. @ Chicago – thanks and parents do give in! I love in the book where he argued with a car dealership guys trying to sell him a TV in his van (and he didn’t want it)!
    @ Dove – thanks and it’s more than around the planet but they need to explore what is around them before they can do anything wordwide!
    @ YNJ – thanks and sure hope you read your mothers copy of the book one of these days!

    BTW: I just edited my post to include this NPR story that everyone should listen to hearing the author talk about kids being out in nature! You can listen and blog at the same time!

    17 November 2007 at 7:34 pm

  10. Marg

    Thanks for adding a new term to my vocabulary-Nature Deficit Disorder-I love it. Fascinating post and I’m off to put this on hold at the Library. My daughter is a “peer tutor” and she just got a new “peer” and she said he does NOT focus on anything at all.

    17 November 2007 at 8:16 pm

  11. Lisa at Greenbow

    I am so happy you brought this out in your blog. You do such a good service to your community and the world for that matter with your blog. I think this is a terribly important issue. I can see it in the few children that I am around. It is so sad to see them cooped up. Like a dog that has been in a kennel too long. It is no wonder so many of the children now days are so disengaged with the real world.

    17 November 2007 at 8:25 pm

  12. Michael Head

    I think this author is definitely on to something. I spent 9 years as a scoutmaster and over 30 years involved in the organization. It was the ONLY place that some of the boys ever got their hands dirty.

    Some of them had minor injuries or caught a cold but they all came away from the experience with a much broader understanding of the world they lived in.

    It also prevented them from falling into the “Bambi” or Gaia “earth mother” mind sets. Both are terribly unrealistic and dangerous. “Oh, if we just get in tune with mother nature she will care for us!” BULL! Its important to understand that the natural world has rules and you will be punished without prejudice if you violate them. Not everything is good for you. Bears, rattle snakes and arsenic are all “Natural”.

    When I had boys that were ADD I just made sure they were tired at the end of the day. Physically tired! After 3 or 4 days of being pushed their concentration actually improved.

    We really do need to let the kids get dirty again.

    17 November 2007 at 10:07 pm

  13. @ Marg – It would be a great book to read and might help her with the child!
    @ Lisa – Not sure when I will do another book review but I do agree it was an important issue that needs to be addressed! Thanks and I so agree!
    @ Mike – I am so with you and I have also seen kids who were afraid to walk along a hiking trail! The author does discuss this in the book also! I think you are right that they need to get dirty again enjoying nature!

    17 November 2007 at 10:19 pm

  14. I’m so glad to find your review of Louv’s book here.
    What anyone who cares about the earth probably realizes, too, is that, in addition to nature being good for children–children are good for nature, too.
    Those who learn to love it as a child, will be those who protect it as adults–whether by passing legislation or using the earth wisely.

    17 November 2007 at 10:50 pm

  15. Hi Mon@rch,
    I have read portions of “Last Child in the Woods” also. I grew up in a very small village in a rural area. My siblings and I, along with the neighbor kids, spent almost all of our waking summer hours outside. Looking back on those days now, I realize how magical they were.

    17 November 2007 at 11:08 pm

  16. I also agree with the author’s premise & am glad you posted about the book here! Although I don’t have kids of my own, whenever I visit my nephews in Florida, I make sure we get out to local nature areas, where I teach them whatever I can about the local flora & fauna. My last visit also included a trip to the Orlando Science Center, where a great time was had by all.

    18 November 2007 at 2:04 am

  17. winterwoman

    You know I’m on board with this!

    18 November 2007 at 6:23 am

  18. winterwoman

    P.S. Here’s one of my favorite Nature Kids photos:

    18 November 2007 at 6:24 am

  19. What a great post…it is so true. I am really grateful to have grown up in the “go outside and play” generation and to have raised my own kids here on the farm where they can’t help but be involved in nature.

    18 November 2007 at 7:36 am

  20. I totally agree and thanks for the book review. I like the term, also, Nature Deficit Disorder. I often think the problem with people is they just don’t get out in nature to appreciate how wonderful life is. They’d rather sit in front of the TV and complain about life.

    18 November 2007 at 9:14 am

  21. Thanks for the great review. Louv, like Rachel Carson four decades ago, is sounding the alarm in order to protect the health of our children and to conerve nature for future generations. The bottom line is that if kids do not engage with nature now, in a decade or two could see few people with regard for the natural world.

    18 November 2007 at 9:21 am

  22. @ Nina – I agree that our future depends on our children that know how to connect with nature! Very important for sure! Thanks
    @ Ruthie – So glad you have had a chance to read some parts of this book! I think so many of our memories from childhood when we were enjoying nature and not the many points we got playing Super Mario Bros!
    @ Lana – I don’t have kids also but we can still influence their lives! Glad you take them to local science centers but don’t be afraid to take them out to your local park to just play!
    @ Winterwoman – that is a great one but I also love the one you took with the kids on the dock! Thanks . . . have you read the book yet?? Almost all of us in the park have already!
    @ threecollie – thanks and many of us have grown up that way but don’t be afraid to let them play around the farm some!
    @ Erie – nature can be enjoyed in many ways and sometimes just sitting in the back yard is enough to relax us instead of watching what our president has done next.
    @ Steve – thanks for visiting this site and your kind words! I so agree with you and something we need to be concerned about! Thanks

    18 November 2007 at 10:42 am

  23. That’s an interesting comment about ADD.This sounds like a useful book.I certainly agree that kids need a better connection with nature-we all do. Some times I feel like I spend too much time on the computer but some kids spend all their free time on the computer etc.

    18 November 2007 at 8:14 pm

  24. What a great post. I pity today’s kids. Yes, the allure of the indoor gadgets and the fear of predatory humans have conspired to create this sad state of affairs.

    These pictures warm my heart and give me hope. Great review of a great book. Thanks, Tom.

    18 November 2007 at 10:02 pm

  25. This is the book on my nightstand right now. Thanks for bringing it to the attention of your devoted readership.

    19 November 2007 at 2:02 pm

  26. NDD is a serious condition indeed, and not only among children – sounds like a great book!

    19 November 2007 at 7:09 pm

  27. @ Larry – it is a great book for sure! I find myself on the computer too long!! Yet alone the kids!
    @ Cathy – thanks and they do have it tough! Glad you enjoyed this and hope you get a chance to read the book! Well worth it!
    @ Zen – glad you have this book and one well worth finishing!
    @ Adam – N D D is serous and glad the Author brought this to my attention! I could use more nature most every day! It is a great book! Thaks!

    19 November 2007 at 7:53 pm

  28. Great post and great blog! Thanks for sharing.

    24 November 2007 at 9:58 pm

  29. Cathy Davis

    Wondering if you can help me find a book. While driving from California to Washington I heard a nature photographer and a nature recorder (Dr. Bernie Krause) interviewed. They both mention that being in nature had treated their stuttering and adhd (not sure which was which). One of them have written a book about this. Any idea about the book? Thanks. I appreciate your time.

    29 December 2007 at 11:49 am

  30. @ Ryan – thanks
    @ Cathy – all I could find was an interview at NPR that Dr. Krause had done! Was 40 some minutes long and I wonder if this was the interview you had heard! Good luck and I strongly suggest you read this book “last child in the woods” also! Might answer some questions you might have on some behaviors that I didn’t discuss here.
    NPR Story:

    29 December 2007 at 12:11 pm

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