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I recommend Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods frequently – and not just to get people to bring their kids out to my house in the country! The fact is, living on our ‘farm wannabe’, I can see for myself the benefits Louv describes. What’s more, I can see the effects of ‘time in nature’ on ‘nature deprived’ kids who come out to play. Last Child is a warning to us all of the dangers of abstracting children from the natural world.
Kids who grow up without the normalizing (as Maria Montessori would say), calming, poetic encounters made possible by time ‘in the woods’ develop symptoms of nature deficit disorder. It’s much more than not realizing milk and eggs come from animals, or being too squeamish to go on a campout. Learning and behavior disorders go hand in hand with the escape from reality many kids experience as their only reality. Charlotte Mason got intuitively what Louv demonstrates from recent research. In a sad twist, the kids most likely to get ‘nature therapy’ now are juvenile delinquents, whose healing demonstrates how powerful Creation is to call forth the human person.
Nature itself is at risk, too. Louv makes a compelling case that the best environmental stewards start as children intimately connected to nature. The real need I perceive is humane and abundant leisure time as much as it is outdoor play time. Last Child in the Woods is a good start in the re-proportioning.