Last Child in the Woods: Nature Nurtures Creativity

Review by Jillian Randel

Increased outdoor playtime translates to higher levels of creativity, better critical thinking skills and a greater sense of confidence for today’s children, Richard Louv poses in his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder.

According to Louv, children have lost their connection to the earth. Direct experience has been cut off by machines, and children now experience higher rates of depression and anxiety. Concentration and learning problems manifest through conditions such as ADD and ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Louv introduces the term “nature deficit disorder” in reference to the lack of time spent outside – for children to run wild and free.

What does nature do for us and why is it so important? Stress reduction, greater physical health, a deeper sense of spirit, more creativity and a sense of play are not skills that can be learned in the type of hands-off environment found in classrooms today.

Inventiveness and imagination of nearly all creative people is rooted in early experiences of nature, argues Louv, stressing that unstructured time outside is vital to our children’s development.
“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young,” writes Louv. “It travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”

Louv offers an intelligent commentary on the situation of today’s children and the future we are creating for them through the practices that we teach. By allowing children to get outside and play, we are fostering a wealth of knowledge and skills they would otherwise miss.

Last Child in the Woods is the seventh book for Louv, who is also founder of the Children and Nature Network. Visit childrenandnature.org for more information on his movement.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder; Richard Louv, 2005, $14.95

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