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Last Child in the Woods

Are your children playing outside today?-

With Earth Day around the corner, it seems appropriate to consider why we need to care about the natural world and to share that love of nature with our children.

Last Child in the Woods

by Richard Louv


Algonquin Books 2008

"Leave no child inside"

In this book, Richard Louv details how today's children are cut off from experiencing the natural world. As a child I relished my childhood private explorations of the abandoned lot on the corner of my street. It was a place I could follow worn paths in the brush and watch ants building a hill, grain of sand by grain of sand, or wonder why the grass was so tall and dusty compared to the neat trimmed lawns of the surrounding suburbia. I would peer into burrows wondering what animal lived inside.

Today many parents are afraid to let their children wander unsupervised in abandoned places or undeveloped woodlands in the way I did as a child. It is a different world I am afraid. Children are literally being scared out of the woods because of dangerous strangers or given only very controlled experiences under the guidance of watchful adult eyes. Other children have become so tied to the TV screen or the computer or tablet that they don't "have time" to explore nature. And if they are dragged outside, they are wearing headphones or talking on the cell phone!

Yet, exploring nature is balm for the soul and exercise for the body. It can calm a child and improve physical health. Louv makes the following suggestions:

  1. Parents need to make time for their children to be in nature, not just organized trips, but just spending a day in a beautiful place.
  2. Schools and after school programs need to get children outside, and bring nature inside through the lessons they teach. Preschool and elementary classrooms need live animals, rock collections, and sand and water tables. Middle school and high schools need to incorporate nature into all areas of the curriculum - pond studies in biology, nature walks in literature classes, weather station measurements into math.
  3. The outdoor education movement which was popular in the 70s and 80s and took students on week long trips to camps needs to be revived and made a regular part of the school curriculum. School districts, for example, could run camps, or work with existing camps so that every grade level gets to spend time in the woods interacting with plants and wildlife.

To address the safety issues of the world we live in parents and communities might initiate children's parks and natural playgrounds - as tiny as an abandoned lot in a city - where children can explore on their own in a place that is safe.

Louv writes well and supports his ideas with carefully selected research and examples. Reading Last Child in the Woods will inspire you to celebrate the importance of nature and make sure our children celebrate it too.

Reviewed by Joan Koster

More resources on children and nature -

Randy White lists multiple benefits for children exposed to the natural world as reflected in current research. Here are a few of them. Find the rest here.

  1. Better motor coordination and health
  2. Play is more diverse, creative, and cooperative
  3. A sense of wonder is developed.
  4. More caring and kindness is shown to living things.
  5. Improved concentration.

Children&Nature  - Green Play

National Wildlife Federation Lesson Plans Ranger Rick and more

NAEYC Children and Nature Nature activities for little ones


What do you love most about being outdoors in nature?

Have you shared that love with a child? 

Teach Peace Now
Teach Peace Now
We offer books, activities, lesson plans, and ideas that teachers, parents, and students can use to promote values, attitudes and behaviors which encourage non-violent resolution of conflict, respect for human rights, democracy, intercultural understanding and tolerance.

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