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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Not the last children in the woods

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Last fall we moved into a new house here in Jackson. One of the things we had been wanting in a new home was a setting that would encourage our kids to play outside. We found it in the house we bought. We’re surrounded by woods, and though we own only about an acre and a half of land, there are many more wooded acres around us that we walk through regularly.

My kids love to play outside, and that thrills me as a dad. In our old house, they’d go outside for a few minutes at a time, and that was it — as there was little for them to do. Now they can spend hours outside. They chase frogs and fireflies. They watch dragonflies and squirrels. They’re learning about the evils of sweet gum trees and poison ivy. They’re identifying trees and plants. And their lives are richer because of it.

I, meanwhile, manage to stay busy with all kinds of chores. I have grass to mow, sticks to pick up and a fire pit where I can unleash my inner pyromaniac. With the amount of land we have, there’s always work to be done outside, and I’ve enjoyed my time outdoors as well. As a husband, I’m sure that thrills my wife.

I recently read a book, “Last Child in the Woods,” in which the author, Richard Louv, laments what he calls “nature deficit disorder.” Louv suggests that our society, rather than encouraging children to interact with nature, in reality encourages kids to stay away from it.

“Our institutions, urban/suburban design, and cultural attitudes unconsciously associate nature with doom — while disassociating the outdoors from joy and solitude,” Louv writes. “Well-meaning public-school systems, media, and parents are effectively scaring children straight out of the woods and fields.”

Louv argues that this increasing distance from nature can be tied to all kinds of problems in kids, such as obesity, attention deficit disorder and depression. While sending kids outside won’t be an automatic cure, I think he’s onto something when he points out the benefits of kids spending plenty of time in nature. It fires their imagination and sparks their creativity, and that’s one of my priorities as a parent.

We could have afforded a bigger house on a small lot somewhere, but after living in our home for a few months now, there’s no way I’d make that trade.

Categories : Family

Comments

  1. Amen! Well put, Tim

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