Sunday, November 29, 2009

Last Child in the Woods

Two years ago I mentioned a book, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, on this blog (click here to read the post). At the time I had only read a few paragraphs, but I immediately purchased the book and read it carefully. A couple of weeks ago Lou Ann and I had an opportunity to hear Richard Louv speak about his passion for reconnecting children with nature.

We also had an opportunity to have breakfast with him (just Lou Ann, her two grandchildren, and I). He mentioned several times the importance of children having time for independent play (with the emphasis on "independent"). He recommended a National Public Radio article on play and self regulation (click her to read the article).

I mention this book partly because I believe Louv has an important message that needs to be broadcast, and also because Ocracoke is the perfect place to practice what Louv preaches. There are so many places for children to explore on the island -- woods and creeks and sand dunes. And there are here...and everywhere...backyards, playgrounds, empty lots, fields, nature preserves, and patches of nature where children can play, explore, discover, and learn on their own.

I recommend Louv's book highly, as well as his foundation, the Children and Nature Network. There you will find much information for parents, grandparents, and anyone who interacts with children to help reconnect children with nature.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcript of a letter written in 1949 by a visitor to the island. You can read the letter (which provides a glimpse into Ocracoke life sixty years ago) here:


  1. Debbie Leonard10:34 AM

    I agree completely! I enjoyed the book as well and as a Pre-K teacher in a somewhat urban area, I see the negative effects of children not able to play outside. Instead they sit inside in front of the television, computer and video games. It is such a problem in the classroom.

    Thanks for the links you posted! A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to hear Elena Bodrova and her collegue (the psychologist mentioned in the article) speak at a conference. This is such an important issue for children today.

    How lucky you all are in Ocracoke that your children have a such a wealth of nature!

  2. Anonymous4:52 PM

    We started coming to Ocracoke when our son was about 9. We always felt it to be a safe place for him to wander around by himself and, thank heavens, we were never proven wrong. To this day (he's now 23) he loves to come to the island and just wander for hours on end. Thanks!

    Marcy Desulis

  3. Anonymous4:54 PM

    I can understand the need to be outside and play. However, there was a time when the kids spent the summer with a relative out on a farm. there was a time when many a child grew up on a farm and friends and neighbors were near by. Having said that, today children have summer camps to attend when a farm and relative are not in the family. That is if they can afford to pay the fees. To simply turn a child loose in a urban public green space with no supervision is not what I think is the intent of the advocate of play. the sad reality is some children cannot walk home from school without being abducted. The sadder reality is this fear mongering maybe fed by relatives that had a hand in the disappearance of the missing child therefore blowing the stranger abduction statistics askew.

  4. Philip: We too have been bringing out two sons to Ocracoke every summer since they were born. They are now 13 and 15. I could not agree with you more on this entire topic. Ocracoke has provided a safe haven for them to pass joyous summer days just exploring and enjoying their indpendence.

  5. To be entirely honest, I don't know what statistics show, but my hunch is that abductions by strangers are no more prevalent than they've ever been (and I don't believe that's ever been's just that now with 24 hour news coverage from around the world we know about nearly every one, so it seems like an ever present menace). Prudent parents would always take the best care of their children, and that would include weighing the benefit and harm of encouraging independent outdoor play. My guess is that children would gain a great deal (and incur few genuine risks) from more independence than many are permitted nowadays.