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I seem to remember a study, oh, couple of decades ago, reporting that when it comes to giving kids a "feel for nature" that will turn into a lifelong appreciation, adult-guided activities such as Scouting don't really cut it. It's time alone in nature that makes for real connection. This lines up with my own experience. Most of my memories of intense nature experiences are from time spent alone in the woods or at the shore or wherever. What sticks in my mind about times outdoors with adults is generally the logistical struggles, putting the tent up, trying to start a fire or getting a lost paddle back into the canoe. So I dunno about all those activities for instilling nature appreciation. It might be more productive to just tell them to go play outside.
First, I have to say, I love this magazine for the thought provoking articles, and this certainly fit the bill. As a self-described tree hugger and mom of 2 boys under the age of 2, I eyed this article with a cocked eyebrow. But in the opening lines, I knew that the author and I were very different women...and that is perfectly okay. I never have struggled with a vaction option of NYC vs. the woods. The outdoors wins every time for me and my husband, and as a result of our mutual preference, hopefully for our boys as well. Despite their young age, I have already observed a sense of calm that they get when we go outside. I read Last Child in the Woods too, I almost chucked it too, primarily because my reaction page after page was "duh, doesn't everyone know this?" But I had to chuckle when the author described people like me as the "back to nature" types. Back? Never left. I also agree with Joan's posting, my best memories of being outdoors as a kid - I was alone and exploring. I had my favorite tree, I picked berries, grew flowers and veggies, identified prints, studied bugs, always convinced that I was staring at an undiscovered species, and I think that is the beauty of the outdoors, it makes you feel like you are on an unchartered adventure. It certainly helped that my parents didn't think a TV in Budapest at the height of communism was worth owning, so all my entertainment was outside. That being said, I am no techno-phobe. I use technology as a tool to get things done faster so I can spend more time, yep, you guessed it, outside. Bottom line, different strokes for different folks, and their impressionable young. It's what makes for diverse and interesting people.
What a confused mish-mash of an article this was. I found that it was trying to create a conflict by writing about two very distinct issues and touching on neither issue thoughtfully or with any intellectual rigor. The basis of the author's discomfort with the "kids need nature movement" is that her son loves technology and seems to be benefitting from his exposure to it. Technology has evolved faster than human evolution can evolve and there is no question that technology is impacting our kids and their development. The question of whether this impact is good or bad is not related at all to whether kids need to spend time outside. I think we can say unequivocally that technology is having an impact. And I would of welcomed an essay that looked at that research and explored the impact of technology on our kids more thoroughly.The issue of our kids not getting outside enough and not having contact with dirt and the natural world is a separate issue. Those who advocate that kids need exposure to nature are not saying that kids abandon the computer screen for the woods. Many people manage to bring technology with them into the woods. As our computers become increasingly portable it is not unusual to see hikers and backpackers checking emails and posting on Facebook in the backcountry. Technology and nature are not mutually exclusive. If the author had fully researched the subject she would realize that there are many health reasons beyond just exposure to nature for getting our kids outdoors. There was recently a study showing that an increasing number of kids are suffering from Vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to mood, cognitive problems and other health issues. Scientists have also shown that lack of exposure to dirt and the tiny organisms that exist in dirt is a contributing factor in the increase in auto-immune disorders such as asthma. The author glosses over the hard fact that children who are afraid of bugs and earthworms are much less likely to see the importance of preserving eco-systems and have a much harder time grasping how interconnected life is on this planet. This particular mom is a highly educated person who happens to live in a very progressive town. There is no doubt in my mind that her son will be exposed to important concepts like the fragility of our ecosystems and how small changes on these ecosystems can result in big changes overall. Her son will be exposed to evolution and all it's complexity. But there are many kids who are not so fortunate as the author's son and they will not learn about these key ideas unless we actively work to include nature education in their curricula. And one way to do this is to create a movement that makes it trendy to get kids outside among the middle class.The author's choice to write about her trip to NYC as way of expressing her rejection of the back to nature movement also failed me. Why? Because of all the great urban cities in the world NYC is fortunate to have one of the most amazing parks in the world where urban kids can explore, climb rocks and experience nature right in their backyard. Central Park is a marvelous oasis in a concrete city and even a simple walk through the park in the summer would of provided her son exposure to nature. Neither here nor there the article failed to inspire or leave me with a sense that the author was doing any deep thinking about her parenting choices. I felt that she instead hoped to create a parenting conflict out of thin air. And at least with me her attempt failed.
Mainegreenmama is right--different strokes for different kids--and moms and dads, too.I do enjoy a lot about the outdoors. It's the current rhetoric about nature that bothers me. Jill, you may find this piece a mish-mash, and that is your right. But I find it interesting that you don't point to my main arguments about the ways social and economic differences--and also the impact of the women's movement on family lifestyles--have simply been excised from the discussion by a writer like Louv. That is where the conflict lies, and it is real.As for NYC and Central Park, we certainly spent time in the park and the Natural History Museum--dutiful time. But my son's preference was for Time's Square. More to the point, that's where he came alive.As for separating the need to get outdoors from contact with the natural world--and from the impact of technology on kids--you are right that these can be viewed as separate issues. I am well aware that many people quite usefully use technology in the woods. Writers like Louv and Todd Christopher are the ones who mash all this stuff up together and come up with one sweeping solution.Different strokes, yeah. But there are political ramifications to any parenting movement, even if the goal is a laudable one.
Martha,I am assuming since this is brainchild that we can have a respectful discussion on this.First I should say that I have not read Louv's book. And that my children are now young adults and older teens so parenting trends are only things I hear about from mom's I work with or read about.That being said I was thrilled to see that somebody was raising an alarm about children not getting enough time outdoors. For this was a concern I had myself. I was noticing dramatic changes between when my oldest daughter was in elementary school, she is now 22, and her younger brother, who is 16, was in elementary school. The trend toward increasing parental control over children's lives in those 6 years was shocking. During those 6 years I saw recess go from being a time of free play to being something micromanaged by aides and teachers for fear a child might scrape a knee. I saw parents who followed children with wipes for fear that a little bit of dirt might be ingested. And I saw fewer and fewer kids just outside playing on weekends. And this trend seemed to exist whether I was in Boston or Cambridge among lower income parents or out in the suburbs where I live.And it is no surprise that such a dramatic change was occurring. In those 6 years we saw an explosion of technology and a decrease in the cost of that technology. When my daughter was 6 the world wide web was hardly part of most people's language and Google did not even exist. Gameboy's were the technology of the moment when she was 9 but they were a luxury toy, a toy that was coveted and owned by only a select group of children. As the prices for technology decreased more and more kids have become "plugged in". And as I said initially it is not clear whether that is a good or a bad thing. That is a separate debate.But the combination of cheap technology with parents who want to have more control then ever over their children's lives means that free play, and especially free play outdoors, has become a rare thing. For example my oldest used to go out for recess in ALL WEATHER unless it was hailing or lightening or heavy heavy down pour. My daughter did her share of complaining about this. But she learned that she could survive if she was a little cold or a little wet. These days I walk my dog by our local elementary school and I am dismayed to see how easily the school calls for "indoor recess". It seems like all it has to do is rain a little bit and BOOM the kids are indoors. When my oldest was little afterschool was a time when kids hung out and played on the playground. Some mom's and babysitters would be hanging out. Some kids would be there alone and would walk home when they were done. The kids in extended day would come outside with their teachers. Often it was a battle to pull my kids away. These days that same playground afterschool is empty. I suspect everyone has to rush off to some "activity" and kids in extended day are doing their homework. But I find the emptiness of the playground reason for concern. Again I think it has to do with parent's desire for more control and fear of what might happen if we let children be more "natural and explore." Meanwhile everyone agrees there is an increase (I am a special education advocate) in the number of kids suffering from learning problems. I don't think we can ignore the study recently from the American Association of Pediatrics that talked about the increase in Vit D deficiency among our children. I don't look at Louv's book as a political movement but rather a warning that our current parenting practices might not be in the best interest of our children's health and well being.
Jill, I'm glad we're talking about this here, and I appreciate your active engagement with the arguments.Louv and other writers are the ones who call this a movement. In fact, when I saw him at a reading for Last Child in the Woods, his use of that word is what got me thinking hard about the issues.It took me awhile to figure out why his assumptions bothered me so. As I say, I'm his audience. But I'm also a long-time feminist, and his exhortations against "stranger danger" and all us cowering parents (read: moms) made me realize that he was treading some awfully familiar ground.You are very right that children need to be outdoors. The question is, does their outdoor time need to be nature-focused? Louv and others have noted that time spent doing organized sports, for example, is not the same as reveling in the natural world--but here's where I think we're getting down to aesthetic choices.In any case, I welcome the debate, precisely because nostalgic assumptions about nature are so little questioned. In these sweeping discussions, "Nature" often sounds like "God," and for a secular humanist like me, that's very problematic.
Check out David Elkind's OP-ED piece in the NYtimes.http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/opinion/27elkind.htmlI think that we are beyond the feminist mom paranoia in dealing with our kids and instead at a turning point where as a culture of "Parents" which includes both moms and dads we aggressively address the issues that have emerged from our rapidly changing technological world.
It's fair to criticize the kids-and-nature movement for the shaky foundations of its health claims: a solid body of scientific evidence simply doesn't exist in this field.But it is unfair (and dead wrong) to characterize it as against technology or multiculturalism. When it comes to technology, I've read Louv as saying that our children's lives are simply out of balance, and that creating opportunities for outdoor experiences (for those children and families that want to engage in them -- not for ALL families) can provide kids with a better-rounded emotional and physical development.As for multiculturalism, it is a fact that the dominant environmental movement in the U.S. has been created, supported, and led by white, relatively affluent individuals. But all of the environmental organizations I know are well aware of this fact, and have been trying (with more or less success) to diversify their ranks, messages, and programs. To say that the environmental movement is against multiculturalism is factually wrong.Finally, it is interesting that the author of this article takes Louv to task for excising socioeconomic inequalities from his account, yet doesn't say anything about the fact that taking in the wonders of Time Square (or those of any safe, vibrant urban space), working on web pages, and other activities that resonate with her son are almost inconceivable to the majority of U.S. and the world's children. Perhaps the author should examine the inequities that make possible her and her son's own experiences, and realize that the issue is not "country versus city", as she wrongly characterizes Louv's argument, but "opportunity for nurturing a child's sense of wonder -- in city or country -- versus the lack thereof."
Emilian brings up an excellent point about what is available to the majority of the World's children. It is really sad to think about the children who have little to explore inside and are not allowed to go outside to explore due to unsafe neighborhoods and lack of adult supervision or fear.I also agree with Jill's observations about the empty playgrounds. I am a young mama (30yr old. My kids are 4 and 6 and we live in a big city so I really have only experienced the over scheduled and over protected way of raising kids these days. And as a I child for the most part my time alone in the outdoors only took place in the safety of my small suburban yard. I did play outside in the yard almost everyday though and it definitely made a difference for me. As a teen when I struggled with different emotional ups and downs going outside to write in a journal or driving to go sit by the ocean alone always calmed and soothed me and gave me the time to sort out my thoughts free of distractions. No one gave me this idea either it was something that came naturally to me and I owe that to the calm I felt as a child when I would play outdoors.For me one of the most important points in Louv's books is this idea that children can benefit from time alone outside in their own private space. Even though I do value this idea I find myself really struggling with providing this for my children because I do have a lot of fears. Recently in my city a teenage girl was raped and killed out on a trail when she went running alone. Things like this are really difficult for me, I find myself getting paranoid at the park when I cannot see my kids at all times from where I am sitting. I know they need that uninterrupted exploration time outdoors and yet I continue to struggle with how to provide this for them and still feel like I am keeping them safe.I do know that some kids and people do need/crave more nature and outdoors time. I can see this in my own children. My son really is not well unless he can get some time outside everyday whereas my daughter can get what she needs from some time in her room sketching or reading some days and going outside on other days. I think this whole idea of getting kids connected with nature touches on is the fact that many of today's kids do not know how to find calm and quiet on their own. I feel that many kids are overstimulated by all the technology and media around them. Yes some of them, like the author's son for example, do find ways to explore and create via media and technology but I fear that many others use these things as distractions with out even realizing it. Getting time outside to explore and be free is easy and more accessible to people of all economical statuses.Something else I believe about this is that "outside" can be ANYWHERE outside. The author talks about her son coming alive in Times Square and this is great, he was outside exploring! Yes it was in a city but I think the main point about all this is that we need to get kids unstructured time outside to explore. What that outside is does not really matter because it will be different for each child and family. There is a documentary called "Where will the children play?" that touches on these ideas and shows the importance of play and how it can be achieved in different environments.I hope to see more articles and discussions about this topic because I believe that this needs to be talked about and researched. Things are different now and for most children things are not going to ever be like the childhood Louv experienced. It is my hope that we can get down to what matters most when it comes to these issues and then figure out a variety of solutions.For now I am going to plan more day trips to the beach and look for a house with a large yard so I can let my children explore safely while I peek on them from the kitchen window.
I went to the website to check out the magazine. This article caught my eye. After reading this I will not order this magazine. The article is confused and even more confuses her adoption of a child with spending time in nature - the two are not the same thing. One does not justify the other. There is no doubt that a great deal can be learned from time in nature. Our electronic addictions have lead to an isolated society. Rather than reaching out to other people and to the natural world around us, we instead reach for our iPods, Blackberries, and on demand everything. It is sad. This author seems to have a lack of touch with what is really going on around her. The fact that this magazine would publish this article says something of their mission and outlook on today's parents.
I love Brain, Child magazine for it's thought provoking and well researched essays and features. Guilt Trip Into The Woods was not one of them. I take no issue with the author's opinion about what is right for her own child, however the tone of this excruciatingly protracted piece was one sided and extremely defensive. Harping on only one or two sources, her piece attacked the mere notion that children should have some time out in nature. I found this approach ironic. Obviously the author felt attacked by the 'treehuggers'. Personally, I'm equal parts treehugger and tech geek. And I think that the author's point, hidden deep within a language of anger and defensiveness, that every kid has different needs could have been more aptly conveyed if the information provided had been more balanced. Let the reader decide rather than stuffing your own personal frustrations down our throats.
It's interesting that several commenters focused on my supposed anger and defensiveness. I do admit to wanting to poke a few holes in the conventional wisdom, but really, I don't feel "attacked by treehuggers."The idea is very funny, really. All those groovy moms and dads coming at me with pitchforks--me clutching my iPhone, searching for the right ap. There's a lot of room for disagreement on this issue. But the knee-jerk response of some commenters kind of proves my point. Nature is God and Mom and apple pie all rolled into one. By "nature" here I mean a particular romantic conception, not time spent outdoors or unstructured play or the environment or green space or a variety of related issues.It's fair to point to my economic privilege and to wonder if kids in other situations have access to the same choices. Still, all my background in reporting on youth services tells me it's not just a matter of getting kids into the woods. What matters most is providing them with caring adults and mentors -- that's the tough and very under-funded part of this equation.
I think one point that hasn't been touched on much is Martha's idea that time spent exploring online worlds is a decent substitution for exploring nature. To me, this is comparing apples and virtual oranges.I find it disingenuous to claim that these two different modes of exploration could reap similar benefits. When going online, you know what kind of experience you're interested in having, then you immerse yourself in it. When going outside, nature can surprise you. The unexpected discovery is what creates the specific kind of "sense of wonder" which I believe Louv was getting at. Online worlds are necessarily limited in scope and purpose, so they are hardly the open-ended playscapes that you can find in even a small patch of nature. Furthermore, a web portal may provide an effective escape from parents as Martha says, but you are not quietly and meditatively alone with your thoughts as you would be in a treehouse. The escapism of online introspection just doesn't have the same flavor.I can respect a contempt for worksheets and other adult-led activities however. While these may be well and good, they don't meet the goal of unstructured play. If adult supervision is absolutely needed for safety, then the adults should at least step back and do their best not to guide or referee what the kids are doing. Trusting kids to learn their own lessons will make the experience much more richly rewarding. On the flip side, this is why any sort of quality family time is not a substitute for giving kids the freedom to roam (whether it be in the "great" outdoors or the urban landscape). Again, freedom from structure and (if possible) supervision allows kids to open their senses, be themselves, and build confidence.I agree that there are so many things we need to provide to our kids, and it's hard to figure out which are the most important. However, let's not pretend that tech and other human creations are a substitute for access to the outdoors. Both may be valid uses of time (in moderation), but the glitz and easy access of media means that the equation is skewed far towards the techy side. The mission, for me at least, is to make sure it's safe to tell my child "it's a nice day, go play outside!"
This article - Guilt Trip into the Woods - has been on my mind since reading it last month. I've read the comments and fascinated by similar interpretations by other readers. What seems, so far, to be missing is that the very important link between nature and humans - in this article which reflects so much of our world today - is being presented as a choice.As a professional wildlife biologist who has spent decades working in Africa and on global environmental issues this article brings home the lack of knowledge that our American society unfortunately has with our linkage with nature. We are, as a nation, driving unprecedented planetary change that will impact our children and their children for generations to come.To politicize this issue as an issue of trying to control parents, to raise concerns about feminism or adoption or technology-loving (us) vs. nature-loving (them) is, in a word, sad. So many of the arguments raised in the article missed the real importance of the efforts today to encourage time in nature.To spend time with something is to learn about it. To learn about it is to know it. To know it is to bond to it. To be bonded to it encourages stewardship and responsibility. Learning about something on TV or in school does not replace personal experience. Think about your own experiences - you connect to those issues and things that you have personal experience with. That is the essence of encouraging more free play in nature. To foster connection. Connection and connectedness is what brings happiness to people and can create the change needed with our relationship to the planet.I would have liked to have seen Brain,Child offer this piece with a well-researched piece that takes an alternative perspective on Richard Louv's and others' work on this very important global issue. We in the US and other economically advanced (though regressing...) nations demand the majority of the resources on the planet. If we do not shift our ways - those that live closest with nature now (and have little access to that treasured technology) will suffer the most. We can still buy our way out for awhile and not feel the impacts of what we are doing to the planet. We can choose to focus using corn on ethanol production so we can drive our cars rather than providing much-needed food around the world.Connecting this generation with nature in meaningful ways is essential to their future. As a parent, it is indeed one of the greatest gifts we can offer our children.
AS a longtime subscriber to Brain, Child, and as a journalist who's covered the "No Child Left Inside" movement, I read this article with interest. I've written some of my reactions here:http://amcoutdoorskids.blogspot.com/2010/04/do-kids-really-need-nature-critiquing.html
Hi all -- I want to reflect on the comments of Kristen, moonjunio, an the last Anonymous, because they get at some very interesting and, I think, important questions.My suggestion that online worlds may provide the equivalent of physical tree houses and dens is certainly open to debate. I think they may for some kids and not for others. It's quite true that many gaming environments are highly structured. My own son doesn't respond to the structure--and I don't like structured activities, either--so the level of structure in some online games really could constrain and limit some kids.Frankly, the question fascinates me. In the article, I frame this as my opinion alone, because how we gets ourselves into our kids' heads is endlessly challenging. I would like to know more.Regarding the broad-ranging political and environmental reasons for kids connecting with nature, I'm largely in agreement. But I think questioning propaganda in all its guises--even if it's our propaganda--should be part of the public discourse. Much of my viewpoint for this piece has been shaped by many years of reporting for Youth Today. I have done a number of investigative features about nonprofits that trumpet the good they're doing. Yet in an era when youth-service funding has been cut drastically, the impact of such programs on kids who need help--and there are many--really matters.In fact, we should be doing both: encouraging kids to connect with nature and funding all sorts of other enrichment (or even basic skills) programs. Unfortunately, we're doing neither very well.Lastly, I think Kristen's commentary on my piece captures my ideas pretty well. Am I too sensitive as an adoptive mom? Possibly. Could be guilty as charged. Yet given the last few weeks of news coverage about adoption--including headlines in Slate like "I Did Not Love My Adopted Child"--I'd argue that my sensitivity is fueled by many unconscious stereotypes.Thank you all for such thoughtful comments.
Hi Martha, thanks for the follow-up. To go into the topic of online worlds as an alternative for natural worlds a bit further, let me quote something from "Last Child in the Woods" that struck me. Actually it's a quote from one of the young adults in the "Urban Corps" program, page 57:"When I come [to the woods], I can exhale," says Carlos. "Here, you hear things; in the city, you can't hear anything because you can hear everything. In the city, everything is obvious. Here, you get closer and you see more."Online worlds, like cities, are built by people for people. That's what I mean by the scope and purpose of online environments being necessarily limited. There's no way you can duplicate the open-ended, purposeless, infinitely detailed environment that is nature. In nature, you realize that people are just a very very small piece of the whole, it's not all about us. There's always more to observe, and your options are limitless.I'm as media-saturated as the next person, but I don't think there's anything man-made that can offer the same rewards as, for instance, a walk on the beach. It's just a totally different experience, and they can't be compared, so I believe they can't have the same benefits.Disclaimer: I haven't read the whole book yet :-) However, I guess I bristle at attempts to rationalize how we can sidestep "back-to-nature" by offering other enrichment alternatives. However Louv or the movement inspired by his book may or may not be screwing up, I think it's important to take the message to heart and take steps to give our kids access to the natural world.
Please note that "Last Child in the Woods" and "The Green Hour" are very different books. One of Louv's larger points is that children need unstructured, unsupervised time to play outdoors. Christopher, on the other hand, spells out different structured activities that include both parent and child. Both authors feel that kids should get outdoors more...but IMHO, that's where the similarity ends. I agree that no longterm studies prove computer and other tech-media saturation is necessarily bad for children. But the technology simply hasn't been around that long--and it changes so rapidly, I'm not sure how such effects will be or could be quantified. Personally, I'm not taking chances with my own kids. Long before I read a back-to-nature book, I saw that TV caused my kids to become agitated, and time in the backyard calmed them down. So we tip the balance heavily in favor of nature. Nothing scientific about this approach, but I encourage others to at least try the same.
Moonjunio -- Nice to hear back from you, too. This is such an interesting question. Hmmmm...is there anything like a walk on the beach? For me, perhaps not. But I don't think it draws my son in the same way--and it's not for want of trying on my part.Of course, for little kids in general, it's not really about walking and meditating, it's about exploring and poking at the sand and leaping through the waves. The differences between what adults and kids experience is what I'm pointing to here.I think I could also say that for me there was nothing like my first experience of reading The Lord of the Rings, either. I believe my son would take watching Avatar: The Last Airbender over beach exploration any day--and by that, I mean not only watching the cartoons but also drawing his favorite characters, talking endlessly with his buddies about what "bending" means, and developing many play-acted scenarios based on the series. That looks pretty creative and unstructured to me.What I didn't get into in the article but could have is a comparison of the slow-parenting movement with the nature-is-good-for-what-ails-you movement. I think my main allegiance is to the former.Anonymous--You are right that Christopher's book is an easy target and has none of the heft of Last Child in the Woods. That's why I spent most of my time contending with Louv--his book is far more deeply reported and reasoned, and it's had an impact on policymakers. I have problems with his reasoning, but I don't want to give the impression that his ideas are fluffy or poorly sourced.
Yes exactly, there's nothing like playing on the beach, and there's nothing like reading or watching a movie. They are both fulfilling in their own ways - but one is not a replacement for the other. Every kid is going to develop their own interests, and you can't make somebody like something. But you can give them the opportunity to like it by creating access (and maybe even booting them outside on a nice day - with or without a book!)
Martha,Can you clarify something for me? After reading the article I too had the same knee-jerk reactions the first few commenters did. Then I read your follow-up comment— "But I find it interesting that you don't point to my main arguments about the ways social and economic differences--and also the impact of the women's movement on family lifestyles--have simply been excised from the discussion by a writer like Louv. That is where the conflict lies, and it is real."—so I went back and reread and reread the article and I am missing the main arguments on these issues. Mostly because they are not clear. Are you saying that you think Louv is skirting around saying that it's the change in family lifestyles due to women working outside the home that has led to children's Nature Deficit and therefore unfair to those working moms? Please clarify this for me.
One of the mistakes I see in this article is a common one - a lack of the long-term view. You are basing much of your arguments on your son and how he is now, but what about when he is an adult? Why do you think we see so many midlife-to-elderly people take up things like gardening and bird watching? Often they are burnt out from years spent in the workplace and the one place they feel they can recharge and refresh their spirits is...wait for it...nature!Your son may not show much appreciation for nature right now. But just as you make sure he eats a balanced diet and not just candy, you can make sure he gets nature experiences because you know they are important. For all you know, you'll find your son at the age of 40 walking through the woods or digging in the garden, seeking refreshment from technology and wondering why he wasn't given more chances to experience nature as a child. Exciting nature activities can be easy and yes, they are something that working parents can fit into their lives. The other day my kids and I scooped up some pond water at a local forest preserve and found such exciting things (turtles, crayfish, amazing insects) that they were riveted even though they love TV and the internet as much as any kids do. If pressing a leaf isn't exciting, then find something that is. But don't just act as though it's not important because your son doesn't happen to think it is. The person who mentioned that knowing something, being familiar with it, leads to feelings of protection and stewardship hit the nail on the head. Those feelings might not arise on their own, but they can be cultivated.
Eugenia -- Thanks for asking for clarification. As a writer, sometimes it's hard to know what's getting across and what isn't. My problem with Louv's approach is that it does not challenge any of the true culprits (unless you consider the Sierra Club a culprit). He seeks appeasement with conservative religious groups and doesn't take on Corporate America beyond a few mild lobs.What I see as real issues for working parents are corporate pressures to work 24/7 and a lack of any realistic, sustained, politically oriented discussion of child care or elder care. Corporations know we resonate with "green" and "nature," so they've co-opted much of the rhetoric around these issues. But for women--and for children--we are left with inadequate child care and youth services. How these are funded, especially in an economic downturn, are very much determined by flavors of the month and what kinds of language ("nature," "God," "spirit," "green) resonate with funders.Anyway, I am happy to expound away on this, so please keep asking questions.Regarding the long view of parenting: I think I do have that view. I know it's not just about what my son likes in the moment, and because my husband and I like to hike, we do drag him outside, and he has been to nature camps. My point is that he will make of this what he will, and the kinds of nature activities that Louv and others expound upon are not a good fit for my guy. Part of this, too, has to do with how many "good-for-you" activities parents force on children when they're young. In our family, we spend some time (and nagging) on connecting with Vietnamese American friends and learning some of the language. This feels culturally important to my son -- and he would say that it is -- but he still kicks in his heels sometimes.Me, I try to balance the pushing with the listening. I like finding out what he's interested in, too. Sometimes we share the excitement; sometimes we don't. But by listening to him, I feel that I get a little bit of a window into what makes him tick. He is, and always will be, his own person.
Thank you for the clarification, Martha. I want to say that this resonates deeply with me and I was particularly stirred up by this sentence:"What I see as real issues for working parents are corporate pressures to work 24/7 and a lack of any realistic, sustained, politically oriented discussion of child care or elder care"The view and belief I hold is that "Corporate pressures to work 24/7" do not come from "Corporations" or bosses or businesses. They are pressures felt by employees who hold the false belief that they need the corporate job to pay the bills. Bills that are self-imposed and more often than not unnecessary. Hear me out on this one. The majority of Americans have the following bills due each month: mortgage/rent, utilities (electric/waste/water), car/transportation, Insurance (health, home, car), childcare, food, student loans, credit card debt, other loans, cable, internet, phone. There are plenty of others but for all intents and purposes these are the major categories. Now if you look at this list more than half are unnecessary. Again stick with me before scoffing that they are all unavoidable. Cable is totally extraneous and even harmful to family life, if you ask me. Loans (be they school or other) as well as credit cards are expenses one should NEVER incur. If you cannot afford it you do not get it. Including a university education. A car note can be either paid off in 2 years or bought with cash if saving properly. Internet can be had for free at super high speeds in various places in the community. A MODEST affordable mortgage can be paid off in 15 years. Leaving food, utilities and insurance (although one can argue that this too is extraneous). Now with such few bills surely one parent can stay home to raise and care for a child and/or elderly parents. Leading me to my next point. Child care and elderly care are family responsibilities and issues. These should, in my opinion, NEVER be discussed/handled/regulated/enforced by politics/government. There is a MAJOR degradation of community happening in American society. Community is where "funding for youth services" comes from not from Uncle Sam. Youth services are pick-up basketball/soccer/baseball games at the neighborhood park, swimming at the neighborhood pool, arts and crafts with the crafty neighbor, gardening with the green thumb neighbor, cooking with Mom/Dad, story time at the neighborhood library or even your local bookstore or grandma's lap, blogging/website making/digital graphics exploring with the digitally minded neighbor. Building things with the architect/construction worker neighbor. And finally, time spent alone communing with the very source that put us on this planet...the planet itself and the sun. Come at me with conservative or liberal or corporate rhetoric and I will always defer to community and the heart-to-heart connection with others and with "nature" that ALL people crave and need.I have a hard time listening to people laying blame on politicians/government/corporations/big pharma etc....for the ills of our hearts. In my opinion, laying blame on large entities robs individuals of their inherent personal power to create the connections within themselves, with others and with "nature" to feel human, to feel love, to feel harmony and to feel peace. Afterall, corporations wouldn't exist if we weren't buying their products.
Eugenia -- There's much I agree with here, and much I don't. It would be wrong indeed to state that we are only corporate tools or automatons. We make choices all the time about how we live and work, and I do agree that it's quite possible to live well on modest means.Yet I really do believe that many people are strapped into work situations that give them little leeway -- and I'm not talking about white collar jobs, either. Being a poor single mother is not for sissies. I believe in a safety net, and in America we don't have much of one.It's not just about individual will or choice; it's about creating a just society for all.I truly wish that all communities functioned to serve all their members, and that all families could provide the care required for young children and fragile elderly family members. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The results of Harvard's Project on Global Working Families, for one, make very clear how little adult care children around the world receive if there is no subsidized child care.
As a cultural anthropologist, I know Man has always had a direct link to the natural world. As a mother I have seen the wonder a sprouting seed or a leaping frog can evoke in a child. Would you deny your child such happiness?We are to rapidly moving to an AI world where faux is chic and relations become only meaningless screwing. Homo Sapien Sapien needs Homo Sapien Sapien and we need a patch of green to feel the grass under our feet, the wind blowing our coiffure and an occasional trip to a real water source. We are the other "Gorillas in the Mist" only we erroneously would care to think we are in control. Nature is a wonderful stress buster. By observation I firmly believe many AD children would benefit from time outside. Nature heals, perhaps not as quickly as we'd like but it does heal. Personally I chose not to become a cyborg buerger(sorry had to use the letter ue in place of an umlaut) with an implanted artifical brain. To me this is Gospel. Your choice may be different.
Hmm. You all raise valid points. Bottom line, the issue of nature/technology and resulting discussion seems a lot like the working outside the home/stay at home mom issue. We all make our choices based upon many factors and want to believe WE are doing what is best for our children. I think the key that we tend to overlook in our quest to be "right" is balance. For me, providing outside time for my kids is my attempt at helping them understand why we need to try to take care of our Earth. But I also use technology to answer their questions about the things they see outside. Last week we looked up how bees turn nectar into honey. The question arose from nature, but the answer was found quickly using technology. There is room for both.
Agreed, it's very easy to get defensive about one's own lifestyle choices. Then feathers get ruffled because other people feel like their choices are being attacked. So I guess the question is, was this an appropriate tone for an article in Brain, Child?I would have to say yes. I like the spirit of frank discussion that Brain, Child is all about. However, personally I think the article would have been more effective if the author had been better able to separate her personal perspectives and experiences from the general critique of the movement. While I can't fault you Martha for seeing the issues through the lens of your own experience, I believe the message would have been better received were you able to take a step back from the nitty-gritty of your own life and find more common ground with moms who feel there are plenty of healthy alternatives to time spent in nature.
interestingly - as much as I am a proponent of being outdoors and in nature - it occurred to me that there are many poor children (in rural United States and in other countries including 3rd world countries) who get LOTS of time outside. And many of these kids are experts on the environment and nature that is around them. However, would we say that these kids are better off than that our kids that are holed up with their computers and internet access and PSPs? I am still going to take my kids camping and hiking and expose them to many of natures wonders, but I do think that some of this seems to be another suburban supermom construct.
I just picked up an old copy of Brain, Child and read this article. I was really disappointed that this article couldn't critique the book "Last Child in the Woods" without critiquing the whole movement to spend time outside with children. It's throwing the baby out with the bathwater in my opinion.One thing in particular that bothered me was the assumption that there is something evangelical about parents who avoid media and spend lots of time outdoors with their children. My children use almost no media (they are seven and eleven years old). I see lots of my friends who allow their children more exposure to computers, videos and other media than I do. The biggest difference I see is that parents who allow some media use spend a lot of time setting limits around media. In my home I don't need to deal with any of that. So, while this article suggests a sort of religious fervor on the part of parents who avoid "the evils of media" - I would contend that it is more often about how much easier it is to not even have these choices for the young child.I know that this will all change as my oldest child enters middle school and beyond, but for now we very much enjoy our media free existence and spend lots of time outdoors.
An ammoral argument. Spark wonder, it doesn't matter about what? Not so sure that is a safe route. How does one determine what IS healthy for the child then? There are many things to wonder at in the world, not all lead toward a place of goodness. I suppose it is about prioritizing values about life. What helps you breath? Nothing can replace the plants that sustain YOU and your desire to observe these diverse environments. The wonderfilled and tantalizing urban centers have been built from the Earth, nothing else. I suppose we just need to remember how all the 'stuff' that we indulge in got here. It's like teaching our children to forget what ACTUALLY sustains them.The essay seems like a rant that will help the author and others continue to indulge in whatever takes their fancy. I want, so I get, because I live in a country that allows me to debate such things. I would bet there is a fairly large part of the human community that might argue that clean water is more important that the exploration of multi-media technological devices for entertainment purposes. Clean water is a result of people caring and knowing about the Earth. We do not live in a lawless space. The natural law will deliver a judgement for us in good time. Then we can answer, that we wished we'd done it differently and cared a little bit more, about the air and the water since now our great grandchildren will not survive. I forgot to teach them that it mattered. I thought we were having fun.
"Staring up at the ten-story movie ads, scrolling numbers, and cartoon characters, Nick danced as if the sidewalk were on fire. He gazed in wonder... He begged to go back to Times Square every night, and we did. My husband and I loved it, too, and more surprisingly, we loved our son’s response."The implication is that since Nick likes it, it is good for him. But what if this instead read "Shooting heroin and snorting cocaine, Nick danced as if the sidewalk were on fire. He gazed in wonder... He begged for more every night, and we did it. My husband and I loved it, too, and more surprisingly, we loved our son’s response.It's clear that much of the modern world has manifested through the pursuit of pleasure, but there is no denying that much of this pleasure is killing us, and is not so pleasurable after all.
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