Have you ever found a book that just speaks to you? Speaks to not only your experiences, but the future? This is that book for me. In fact, as I was reading I began to refer to it as my new bible it spoke to me in such a strong way.
As a child did you spend your days in nature? I did. I spent hours in the woods near my home building forts, walking through, picking up sticks. I spent summers at the beach not far from my house swimming, laying out on the dock, spending time with friends. I spent winters sledding down a hill in the woods; these same trails that we would sled down were biking trails in the summer. As I became a teenager I found a spot that was just for me. When I was upset or needed my personal space I would sit down at the top of this special hill and think, or not think, as it sometimes was. That hill helped me clear jumbled thoughts from my mind. I continued to go there when I was home on breaks from college. I still refer to it as my hill when speaking about it to my husband.
Now, let’s consider the kids in your life. These may be your own kids, your grandkids, your nieces and nephews, or simply neighborhood kids. Maybe your a teacher and you have 30 kids. Let’s consider them for a moment. What do they do with their time? Do they go outside into nature for unstructured playtime? Do they even have nature easily accessible to them? Or do they like to play the current it game on IPad, Kindle, the computer, or gaming system? Do you see them more inside than you do outside? Do you often tell them to set the game aside and go out to play?
Before reading this book I thought my kids got a lot of outdoor playtime. Maybe they didn’t do the things that I once did, but I thought it was enough. Now, not so much. The Last Child in the Woods has completely changed my perspective and I have been putting into place more time for nature. Why aren’t my kids making forts in the woods? It’s not like they aren’t accessible to them. Living in Northern Michigan we have woods, lakes, rivers; really all kind of nature right at our fingertips. My goal is to make my kids appreciate this access much more than they have up to now. Why aren’t they taking walks through the trails surrounding our house? (We live in the same house I grew up in so everything that was available to me, is readily available to them as well.)
I don’t know how to say how much I loved this book except to beg of you to go out and find it and read it. It is such an eye-opening experience and I think every single person who deals with kids on a regular basis should peruse its pages. Are you a therapist? There are signs that point at nature being incredibly useful in children’s therapy. Are you a teacher? Take your kids outside or on a field trip to a local trail or state park. Are you a grandparent? Take your grandchild fishing. Are you a parent? Read the 100 ways you can bring your kids to nature (I recommend for everyone to read these- they are at the end of the book).
I want to share some of my favorite quotes from the pages of The Last Child in the Woods.
“Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically. The polarity of the relationship has reversed. Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment- but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. That’s exactly the opposite of how it was when I was a child.” (p.1)
“Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it. Nature offers healing for a child living in a destructive family or neighborhood. It serves as a blank slate upon which a child draws and reinterprets the culture’s fantasies. Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and full use of the senses… In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace.” (p.7)
“What happens when creative children can no longer choose a green space in which to be creative?” (p. 89)
“…Business people and politicians report less emphasis on nature experiences in early childhood than do artists.” (p.94)
“…Free play in nature is far more effective than mandatory, adult-organized activities in nature. …organizers of nature activities should strive to make the experience as unorganized as possible- but still meaningful.” (p.150-151)
“Passion does not arrive on videotape or on a CD; passion is personal. Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.” (p. 159)
“Stress reduction, greater physical health, a deeper sense of spirit, more creativity, a sense of play, even a safer life- these are the rewards that await a family when it invites more nature into children’s lives.” (p. 163)
“Boredom is fear’s dull cousin. Passive, full of excuses, it can keep children from nature- or drive them to it.” (p. 167)
“Studies of outdoor-education programs geared towards troubled youth- especially those diagnosed with mental-health problems- show a clear therapeutic value.” (p.229)
“Today’s young people are, as we’ve seen, growing up in America’s third frontier. This frontier has yet to completely form, but we do know the general characteristics. Among them: detachment from the source of food, the virtual disappearance of the family farm, the end of biological absolutes, an ambivalent new relationship between humans and other animals, new suburbs shrinking open space, and so on. In this time of quickening change, coudl we enable another frontier to be born- ahead of schedule?” (p. 234)
This book can be found on Amazon.com and other major bookstores.