Where other books talk about problems, dissect them, give you all the research and leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by the problems of the world, Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods is active and comforting.
Nature play is truly wonderful and its something that has captured my imagination for a very long time. I thoroughly believe that bruised knees are better than busied spirits. Children and adults all need to play, explore, create and discover in nature in order to grow and also to fully appreciate the world around them. Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” and whilst he has copped a little bit of flack about calling it a “disorder” it’s definitely eye catching. I don’t think he meant it to be considered like a disease, he uses it in the general sense to group together all the ramifications of not being let out into the world to play.
It is a crucially important issue as we plan for the future of our cities, schools and families. This is not about parents letting go of bubble wrapping their children, its about designing spaces which speak to parents and children. I think to hold on to pushing parents to let their children out into the deep bush on their own is daft. Sure that would be awesome but if you have to work up to that. Being concious of nature, being excited by it, in awe of it, developing respect for it should be a part of life, not just on special occasions. Developing common sense in the bush is something that can begin at the neighbour park, in the backyard and by the pool, from day 1.
We can design our lives and our communities to embrace nature, not set aside land for it surrounded by a fence, and the community as a whole will benefit. The first step is to really appreciate, as professionals, the importance of nature play and then get out there and experience it.
This is a must read for educators, parents, planners, urban designers, parks officers (those guys who put those brightly coloured plastic “playgrounds”everywhere) and policy writers.
Richard Louv has a new book also The Nature Principle which is more geared towards adults, its next on my reading list!
Keep your eye out, coming soon is a post about Perth’s very own “designed” nature play space in Kings Park.
Also check out Richard Louv’s website, Nature Play WA, and The Children and Nature Network for very interesting reading and inspiration.