Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Last Child in the Woods

That's the name of a book by Richard Louw, subtitled, "Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder." The book "bring[s] together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond—and many are right in our own backyard."

I haven't yet read it, but I want to do so. As a lifelong city kid, I really felt this deficit last week, when my mom and sister were visiting. We spent three days staying in a cabin owned by my boss on the Olympic Penninsula here in Washington state that is surrounded by woods.

I went to day camp once as a child, when I was six. I had such a bad allergic reaction to the pollens in the woods that my eyes swelled shut--and my mother never sent me to camp again. As an adult, I've gone camping a few times, but always in campgrounds that had indoor restrooms and showers--no real roughing it. So my knowledge of nature is limited.

I really felt that lack as we walked through the woods around my boss' cabin with my daughter. Curious child that she is, she wanted to look at and touch everything, and I often stopped her. I was afraid of things such as dangerous insects, poisonous berries (since she often puts such things in her mouth), and poison ivy. My problem is, I don't know how to recognize what is safe and what is dangerous in nature, and what to do if I encounter such things. My logical response then, is to overprotect my daughter.

I'd like her to be more free to explore and experience nature, but it will take a lot more knowledge on my part (or that of someone else who can teach her).

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