Richard Louv, who we’ve mentioned before, has published a new and interesting article discussing the benefits of outdoor play, the problems caused when it’s neglected, and what we might do to encourage it. The article is in the March-April 2007 issue of Orion magazine, and is entitled “Leave No Child Inside” (link to the full article). Louv has no trouble documenting an overall decline in the amount of time American kids spend outside, and likewise the numerous problems associated with this “virtual house arrest” (“threats to their independent judgment and value of place, to their ability to feel awe and wonder, to their sense of stewardship for the Earth—and, most immediately, threats to their psychological and physical health”).
Despite the forces behind this “nature-deficit disorder” (“disappearing access to natural areas, competition from television and computers, dangerous traffic, more homework, and other pressures”), Louv also finds a “growing movement to reconnect children and nature.” What’s crucial here is the positive childhood experience of nature most of us adults share and recall fondly. No matter what our current profession, level of income, or political views, we love those experiences… turning over rocks in the stream, hiking through tall ferns, catching a glimpse of a hawk overhead… and we want our children to have them too. Louv’s point is that with this kind of broad agreement on an issue, we should be able to do something about it. There’s power to this movement because “no one among us wants to be a member of the last generation to pass on to its children the joy of playing outside in nature.”