Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, introduced several key concepts of how daily interaction with nature is essential to our overall health. He achieved so by integrating a new and growing body of research suggesting that direct exposure to nature is crucial for healthy childhood development and the psychological and physiological health of both children and adults. Furthermore, the literature was supported by the several interviews that he conducted with parents, teachers, and young children. Louv suggests the progression of technology has led to people being immersed in the technological world and losing touch with nature and its surroundings. This phenomenon has been labeled as the “nature deficit disorder”. The objective of the book was to inform the public of the negative consequences of nature-deficit disorder, especially among children. He proposes that the diminished connection is to partially blame for the loss of creativity among children, low sense of safety and connectedness, increase in childhood obesity, poor academic performance, increased incidence of ADHD diagnoses, and mental illness. They have been caused by the lack of time for children to play outside due to overuse of television and overscheduling, parental fear, and technology-centered education programs. Lou also provides practical solutions in which several are right in our backyards.
In my early life, which was the 1990s, I had the opportunity to interact with nature both at home and school maximally. A typical school day entailed waking up and going to school. In school, we would have three breaks, including lunch, in which we would go to the field and play soccer. When school ended, I would walk with a group of six friends who were neighbors, and we would occasionally get distracted and play on the roadside. However, it was during the summer holidays that I spent a lot of time in nature. At around 10 am, a group of five children would knock at the door to call me to play; therefore, I had no time to sit down and watch a lot of television. Our games typically entailed running around with butterflies. We would tie a piece of paper to a string, which is linked to a stick, and run around the neighborhood with it. This would mimic a flying butterfly, and we realized that it would follow us when we ran past an actual butterfly. This scenario aligns with Louv’s concept of the early experience with the natural world and the development of imagination and a sense of wonder (Louv 55). I developed a unique sense of wonder that enabled me to figure out that butterflies tend to follow other flying butterflies.
Furthermore, our neighborhood had a large tree that held several bird nests; hence, occasionally, we would make bird traps out of large basins, sticks, and ropes and use rice as bait. We would then hide from plain sight, and when the birds flew under the basin to eat the rice, we would tag the rope, thus trapping it. Sometimes, we would also sneak to a nearby local jetty with our makeshift fishing rods and try to catch some fish. The rods comprised a string tied to a stick, and on the free end of the string was a curved metal wire with a sharp edge onto which we inserted the earthworm. Often, we were not so lucky in catching fish; however, we kept going back. Moreover, after dinner, my siblings and I would go out and chase fireflies. Sometimes we would grab them with our bare hands, go into the light, observe them and release them, or even squish them on our faces and make a glow in the dark paint. I believed that engaging in such activities aligned with Louv’s concept on the benefit of nature to improving cognitive development ((Louv 57). Nature activated my senses and triggered the multi-sensory interaction with the environment, for instance, via the visual input of multiple arrays of colors.
It is essential to note that most of the time, there was no adult supervision and the homework that we would be given from school was less; therefore, we had a lot of time to explore nature. Overall, the before-mentioned early experience makes me more inclined to agree with Louv’s ideas regarding the nature-deficit disorder, especially its impact on creativity and problem solving (Louv 87). One of the experiences that I see this perspective illuminate the most is when I built a functional tap at the edge of six years. Then, I was not conversant with the physics principles on the effect of pressure on liquid displacement. However, playing house and all that we did not have was a small tap. I remember us taking a bottle and making a hole near the bottom and then inserting the straw. The bottle was then filled with water and closed with a cap. I realized that when I loosened the lid, water flowed out through the straw, and when I tightened it, it stopped flowing. Without exposure to nature, I would not have been conversant with this fundamental principle. This scenario shows that when children are presented with opportunities for unstructured styles of play, they can think more freely, design their activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.
Nevertheless, although I was an outdoor child, there were still several scenarios that I was a bit lacking; hence, conflicted with Louv’s concepts (Louv 102). For instance, I used to be an average performer in class and had relatively moderate self-esteem. My self-esteem and class performance were issues that I figured how to improve when I was already a grown-up, although interacting with nature at a minimal level. However, it is essential to note that Richard Louv stated that the nature-deficit disorder was partially responsible for the ills such as poor academic performance and depression, with considerable emphasis on the word “partial”. With this into consideration, it can be implied that the extent to which exposure to nature affects the psychological, physiological, and spiritual well-being of an individual is unknown. This is because other factors come into play, including parenting style and studying techniques, among others. Regardless, the application of common sense supports the existence of a positive correlation between nature and its impact on healthy childhood development.
There are several interconnected factors in the current world, such as the increase of electronic entertainment, poor urban planning, the introduction of longer school hours, and the “boogeyman” syndrome, that are affecting the capability of children to interact with nature (Louv 123). For many people, including Richard Louv, intuition emphatically asserts that nature is suitable for children; hence, it is appealing to draw conclusions that have not been drawn from clinical evidence. This is because even the most extensive research is improbable to encompass all benefits resultant of direct experience with nature in an individual’s lifetime. Therefore, regardless of the limitations, parents and educational institutions in the modern world should improve to enable children to interact with the environment.
The increasing understanding of nature’s role in the creation and maintenance of healthy childhood development suggests the use of the term “nature-deficit disorder”. This describes the imbalance between nature and childhood exploration. In conclusion, it can be seen that children, adults, and society can significantly benefit from maximizing informal learning and play opportunities. Naturalized outdoor play environments provide children with places through which they can grow and learn in their experiential ways through the freedom of exploration and discovery of the natural world. For the most of human history, it was in nature that life skills and strengths were developed and where most fun and action could be had. However, in the contemporary world, because of a variety of overlapping factors, such as the increase of electronic entertainment, poor urban planning, and the introduction of longer school hours. From a blend of research findings and common sense, it can be insinuated that interaction with nature is partially associated with increased emotional and physical health. However, the extent of this interrelationship is unknown.
Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books, 2008.