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Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder Hardcover – April 15, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Today's kids are increasingly disconnected from the natural world, says child advocacy expert Louv (Childhood's Future; Fatherlove; etc.), even as research shows that "thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can... be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorder and other maladies." Instead of passing summer months hiking, swimming and telling stories around the campfire, children these days are more likely to attend computer camps or weight-loss camps: as a result, Louv says, they've come to think of nature as more of an abstraction than a reality. Indeed, a 2002 British study reported that eight-year-olds could identify Pokémon characters far more easily than they could name "otter, beetle, and oak tree." Gathering thoughts from parents, teachers, researchers, environmentalists and other concerned parties, Louv argues for a return to an awareness of and appreciation for the natural world. Not only can nature teach kids science and nurture their creativity, he says, nature needs its children: where else will its future stewards come from? Louv's book is a call to action, full of warnings—but also full of ideas for change. Agent, James Levine. (May 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Scientific American

Unstructured outdoor play was standard for me as a hyperactive child growing up in the rural Midwest. I fondly recall digging forts, climbing trees and catching frogs without concern for kidnappers or West Nile virus. According to newspaper columnist and child advocate Richard Louv, such carefree days are gone for America’s youth. Boys and girls now live a "denatured childhood," Louv writes in Last Child in the Woods. He cites multiple causes for why children spend less time outdoors and why they have less access to nature: our growing addiction to electronic media, the relinquishment of green spaces to development, parents’ exaggerated fears of natural and human predators, and the threat of lawsuits and vandalism that has prompted community officials to forbid access to their land. Drawing on personal experience and the perspectives of urban planners, educators, naturalists and psychologists, Louv links children’s alienation from nature to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, stress, depression and anxiety disorders, not to mention childhood obesity. The connections seem tenuous at times, but it is hard not to agree with him based on the acres of anecdotal evidence that he presents. According to Louv, the replacement of open meadows, woods and wetlands by manicured lawns, golf courses and housing developments has led children away from the natural world. What little time they spend outside is on designer playgrounds or fenced yards and is structured, safe and isolating. Such antiseptic spaces provide little opportunity for exploration, imagination or peaceful contemplation. Louv’s idea is not new. Theodore Roosevelt saw a prophylactic dose of nature as a counter to mounting urban malaise in the early 20th century, and others since have expanded on the theme. What Louv adds is a focus on the restorative qualities of nature for children. He recommends that we reacquaint our children and ourselves with nature through hiking, fishing, bird-watching and disorganized, creative play. By doing so, he argues, we may lessen the frequency and severity of emotional and mental ailments and come to recognize the importance of preserving nature. At times Louv seems to conflate physical activity (a game of freeze tag) with nature play (building a tree fort), and it is hard to know which benefits children most. This confusion may be caused by a deficiency in our larger understanding of the role nature plays in a child’s development. At Louv’s prompting, perhaps we will see further inquiry into this matter. In the meantime, parents, educators, therapists and city officials can benefit from taking seriously Louv’s call for a "nature-child reunion."

Jeanne Hamming


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill; 1st edition (April 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565123913
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565123915
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Jon Wurtmann on May 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'm old enough to remember an unplugged childhood, and although I want my kids to play unfettered in the woods and waters, we're a different society today. We can't just let them wander alone, but we also owe them the natural formative experiences we enjoyed like building forts, treehouses and teepees, catching fish, frogs and critters, and observing nature - in nature, not through the TV. Although we try to limit the exposure to electronica - it's a pervasive force in modern life. Louv shows through dozens of examples where kids today get their lessons and experiences - more often than not through the TV or computer screen. He's concerned that a new generation of children is growing up detatched from the earth, who view it simply as a resource to be mined, drilled, and sold. He sees children losing the wonder of nature, and the earth losing a generation of would-be caretakers.

As parents we don't have to move to Montana, or trap our meals to make a positive impact. It can be many little things, like catching fireflies, wading in a small stream with your kids, following animal tracks in the snow. These are all no cost and high-benefit activities that we can do with our kids to introduce them to the wonder that lies just outside our doors.

This book is a call to action. I'm giving it to the principal at my son's elementary school. If you have kids, are thinking about having kids, or are concerned with the future of childhood - READ THIS BOOK!

We had unplugged the tv for a few months and, frankly, were wavering. (We miss it too). After reading Last Child in the Woods, the TV is staying in the cellar. Maybe for the long haul!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My "wake up call" came when my friend from the city brought her toddler to my home and the little girl cried in terror when her mother tried to get her to put her bare feet on the lawn, a lawn that was free of anything dangerous. We don't have a dog so there weren't even any "droppings" to worry about.

A baby who was scared to touch ground? Her mother admitted that her offspring had never felt grass because her mother feared it might be too full of "germs". I urged her to at least let her daughter smell a handful of freshly picked clover but she looked at me as though I were crazy.

I then told her of summers spent barefoot, of exploring creeks and finding crayfish and even some snakes, of coming across a newborn fawn in the woods, etc.

That's when I realized that there could be a whole generation of children losing touch with the natural world around them and I started paying attention to the kids and teens in our neighborhood. Sure enough, very few of them were climbing trees, exploring creeks, walking through the nearby woods. Very few of them built forts or learned the joy of wading in a cold stream or simply lying on the grass and looking up at the clouds, listening to the birds or trying to identify the different types of trees in the neighborhood. All of these things were common activities for me as a child (admittedly, during a time when tv channels were limited to 3 or 4 and there weren't video games or cellphones).

If there is ONE POINT this book makes, it is that parents need to make an effort to help their children discover nature.
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Format: Hardcover
An intriguing and thought-provoking work about our failures as parents, educators, and community planners to provide opportunities for unfettered nature play to our children, and the consequences of this oversight. According to Louv, in "Last Child in the Woods," the lack of opportunities for unstructured nature play, the decline of close-to-home open space, and the rise in programmed sporting activities are all contributing to a condition he labels "Nature Deficit Disorder." Although going to great pains to point out that this is not an identified medical disorder, it remains Louv's hypothesis that the modern disconnect between children and nature can and is to be blamed as a contributing factor to ADHD, obesity, lack of creativity, a loss of respect for nature and the living world, and a number of other social ills. Backed by lots of fascinating interviews, anecdotes, and research, Louv lays out a compelling argument for changing some modern social arrangements (educators, lawyers, and over-protective parents take a few lumps here) and letting today's children play the way we played as children: set them free in the outdoors, and let their imaginations do the work that we too often allow computer games and TV to do for them. Although the book drags a little the last 40 pages or so, it's only because Louv has already won you over to his argument. I highly recommend this work for local planners, educators, parents, and all others concerned about the disconnect between today's youth and the natural world.
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Format: Hardcover
As a parent, grandparent and professional in the field of environmental education, I found Last Child In The Woods an excellent resource that supports what I have discovered first hand as the Director of an environmental center. It is a sad testimony of our times, the disconnection between people, especially children, and the natural world, that this book documents so accurately. Our research indicates that, of the thousands of 10 and 11 year olds that we have worked with (who live in a front range city in Colorado), over 60% have never taken a hike and 80% have never been to the mountains prior to participating in one of our programs. The long term negative implications of such statistics to the future of the environmental movement are clear to me - how will children grow up into adult citizens who advocate for the natural world if they have no direct knowledge of it? What Louv documents so well is how such disconnection from Nature negatively imapcts the health and well-being of individuals. I beleive that all parents and educators, as well as anyone interested in the health of our children and the health of our communities, will find very important information in this book.
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