Taking Children Outdoors: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder

An interview with Richard Louv, author of best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods, explores the benefits of taking children outdoors and providing the opportunity for a free-range childhood.

| November/December 2006

An interview with author Richard Louv regarding the benefits of taking children outdoors. 

Since its publication in 2005, Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, has gone through 10 printings in cloth and paper, and generated more than 600 requests for author speeches, with five appearance requests continuing to hit the in-box each week. The book also has spawned a grassroots movement among the most divergent of people: conservatives, liberals, developers, environmentalists, educators, ministers, architects, and outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturers.

This appeal to such dissimilar audiences is one reason why Louv describes "nature-deficit" as a "doorway" issue. "The people who are championing this book and this issue come from a wide range of experiences, religions and political views," Louv says, "so one of my tasks in the past year — and it continues to be — is to use the issue to bring people together. This is an issue that gets people through the same door and at the same table."

The book's premise is simple, backed by interviews and rigorous research: Nearly 8 million children in the United States suffer from mental disorders. Obesity rates in children are soaring; children are being diagnosed with depression, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at alarming rates, accompanied by prescriptions to Ritalin and other stimulants.

At the same time, children are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. While children of decades past spent summers building tree houses and forts, and winters sledding and building igloos, children today are stressed, overscheduled, and wired to computers and televisions. And, if the current generation of young parents missed out on personal experiences with nature, who will teach their children? How will the children of the new millennium learn to catch lightning bugs, feel the satisfying crunch of shell roads under their sneakers, or simply sit quietly in a forest to smell the rich soil of autumn, feel the crisp air of a coming winter and watch as sun dapples the trees?

Louv is careful to point out that "nature-deficit disorder" isn't a clinically recognized term; he uses it with a sense of irony in a society that embraces medicalized phrases. Still, it has been enthusiastically embraced as a part of the modern lexicon.

3/16/2014 3:34:04 AM

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Robert LaCoe
2/22/2013 4:44:01 PM

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