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Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder Paperback – April 22, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 213 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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


“[The] national movement to ‘leave no child inside’ . . . has been the focus of Capitol Hill hearings, state legislative action, grass-roots projects, a U.S. Forest Service initiative to get more children into the woods and a national effort to promote a ‘green hour’ in each day. . . . The increased activism has been partly inspired by a best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods, and its author, Richard Louv.” —The Washington Post

Last Child in the Woods, which describes a generation so plugged into electronic diversions that it has lost its connection to the natural world, is helping drive a movement quickly flourishing across the nation.” —The Nation’s Health

“This book is an absolute must-read for parents.” —The Boston Globe

“An honest, well-researched and well-written book, . . . the first to give name to an undeniable problem.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“One of the most thought-provoking, well-written books I’ve read in recent memory. It rivals Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.” —The Cincinnati Enquirer

“Important and original. . . . As Louv so eloquently and urgently shows, our mothers were right when they told us, day after day, ‘Go out and play.’” —The Christian Science Monitor

Last Child in the Woods is the direct descendant and rightful legatee of Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder. But this is not the only thing Richard Louv has in common with Rachel Carson. There is also this: in my opinion, Last Child in the Woods is the most important book published since Silent Spring.” —Robert Michael Pyle, author of Sky Time in Gray’s River

“A single sentence explains why Louv’s book is so important: ‘Our children,’ he writes, ‘are the first generation to be raised without meaningful contact with the natural world.’ This matters, and Last Child in the Woods makes it patently clear why and lays out a path back.” —The Ecologist

“With this scholarly yet practical book, Louv offers solutions today for a healthier, greener tomorrow.” —Washington Post Book World

“The simplest, most profound, and most helpful of any book I have read on the personal and historical situation of our children, and ourselves, as we move into the twenty-first century.” —Thomas Berry, author of The Dream of the Earth

From the Back Cover

In his groundbreaking work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, journalist and child advocate Richard Louv directly links the absence of nature in the lives of today's wired generatoin to some of the most disturbing childhood trends: the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. This is the first book to bring together a body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional helath of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions to heal the broken bond.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; Updated and Expanded edition (April 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156512605X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565126053
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I liked the author's ideas, and his arguments, and agree wholeheartedly with his sentiment. I think he's a great person, and I'm glad this book brought this very important issue into the public discussion. However, he totally missed the root cause of the problem he is addressing, and thereby missed the answer to the dilemma. Children don't spend enough time in Nature because adults don't. If we want our children to value Nature and experience it, we must. They are just modeling our behavior. As a Nature educator, I have grown to be disgusted by the very prevalent attitude of middle class parents: "Can somebody please take my kids outside so they can appreciate Nature while I go do important things?" This book is an elaboration on that misguided and futile idea. The author seems to be trying to see beyond it, but he can't quite do it.

Nature deficit disorder is MORE prevalent in adults than in children, and we are passing the disease on to them by rearing them in a way that reflects our chosen values. It is something like parents who smoke and drink while telling their kids not to do the same. Not only is it an ineffective strategy, it is also a disingenuous one.
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Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv is a timely book that needed to be written.

The author's point is that kids today are facing a nature deficit and that affects childhood obesity and even the potential for the next generation to appreciate the breadth of nature enough to want to preserve it. After all, if the local mall has an arboretum and that's all you know as nature, that's all you'll expect.

The culprit is not news to anyone, nor to any parent with enough income to plug their kids into all manner of electronic gadgets. Videogames, TV, computers and the like have proved a powerful pull on today's children. The cost is a lack of simple play outdoors, exploring creeks, fields, rocks and trees (the author doesn't count organized sports as nature exploration and rightly so in my book). It is sad, but not surprising to ask any kids under age 16 or so if the know how to play "Kick the Can." Hardly any do, and even fewer have played.

Louv offers a lot of data to back up the negative effects of this nature deficiency and some prescriptions to turn it around. While reestablishing phys ed in school will help, the answer is simple: parents, unplug your kids and kick them outside.

Having said this, I felt the author could have made his points and supported them in a long magazine article. There really wasn't enough for a full book and Louv gets repetitive and even inserts lists of ways to address the problem. I found myself scanning some sections later in the book because the points in those pages had been made before or the prescriptions he was offering were simplistic and I didn't feel worthy of the full play he gave to some.

That being said, important argument and point, I just wish I would have read this in about forty pages in a periodical.
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When I was growing up in Boise Idaho, I thought nothing of spending an afternoon away from my parents fishing ponds along the Boise River. As I graduated to fly fishing, I spent time on the river itself. Closer to home, the canal which ran below South Federal Way offered a miniature green belt where my friends and I built forts and rode bikes. Urban as Boise was, even then, this tiny greenbelt was still sufficiently wild that I would occasionally find a porcupine in our front yard. Our cats were fairly adept at finding quail (and bringing their still quivering bodies to us) and in general I found it easy to retreat to a relatively tame and yet exciting out of doors. Children today have no such privileges. Indeed, as Richard Louv points out, they are literally suffering from nature deficit disorder and its effects are far more pervasive than most of us would be willing to acknowledge. Increasing urbanization is part of the problem, but only a small part. A larger portion of the blame lies with the unintentional effects of our best intentions: legislation and regulations to protect and educate children.

Louv's hypothesis, in brief, is that we have entered a third frontier. Following the argument of America's first great historian, Frederick Jackson Turner, Louv suggests that America's frontier did indeed close in the 1890s, but it was replaced almost immediately by a second great frontier: life on farms, institutions such as scouting, and outdoor activities were, he argues, commonplace until the 1980s. But, just as Turner's thesis begins with the 1890 census, Louv finds the 1990 census an equally useful demarcation point, for beginning with this census, separate farm records are no longer kept, due to the decline in the rural population.
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Thank God for Richard Louv who has written what should be required reading in all high school and college level classes. Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, is a superb study of an essential yet fading resource, one that we can’t afford to lose. Part science, part self-help and part spiritual advisory, Last Child in the Woods takes a hard look at what separation from the natural world is doing not only to the human psyche, but to our natural intelligence.
There are things learned in nature, Louv posits, that cannot be learned anywhere else, not from books, or stories, or even the finest universities. Schools themselves may be partially responsible for our disenfranchisement from nature since the naturalist curriculum has been all but dropped from today’s scholastic regimen. Gone are the terrariums, the aquariums and the mini biospheres. Math and sciences such as microbiology and chemical engineering have taken center stage while naturalists have become the poor second cousins. And yet, where would the world be without naturalists like John Muir or Teddy Roosevelt? Without state and national parks is where had Muir and Roosevelt not had the contact with the natural world they’d both experienced as children.
According to Louv, in today’s world we’re “continually on the alert.” As more of the natural world is lost to pavement, the incessant images pouring from our televisions and computers and iPhones have become our constant companions. Louv doesn’t point a single finger, but a dozen. He considers various factors such as suburban sprawl which takes away the number of places a child can find solitude in nature, as well as a hyper-vigilant society that is always worried about where our children are and whether any harm may befall them.
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