“I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” – a fourth-grader in San Diego

Most of my childhood summers were spent exploring the creek bed that ran through my suburban neighborhood, hanging out at the community pool until dusk, and then playing Sardines with the other kids on my block until Mom called me in for dinner.

I’d watch a few cartoons here and there, but they definitely didn’t stop me from reading books on the hammock in our backyard or riding my bike to my friend’s house with a treehouse. I remember that feeling of running inside only to grab a drink of water, or to squirm in my seat for lunch until I could go back outside again.

In other words, much of my childhood playtime was spent outdoors. And I’d venture to say that yours was, too.

This current generation of children has a very different perspective of the outdoors. It could be because of fearful parents, wary (perhaps justifiably?) of sickos roaming our suburbs. Or it could be for HOA reasons, where neighborhoods won’t allow homemade play structures because of curb appeal.

It could also be because of our plugged-in world. We’ve got channel upon channel of TV programming geared just to the preschool crowd, there are thousands of video games calling for our kids’ attention, and let’s not forget the internet — Webkinz, free online games, and downloaded movies are just a few of our kids’ choices.

How can crickets and oak trees compete with those?

Our next selection in the Book Club, Last Child in the Woods, addresses these issues. The writer, Richard Louv, is recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal and chairman of the Children & Nature Network. His work was the catalyst for the Leave No Child Inside movement gaining momentum around the world.

As many of the book’s reviewers have said, I feel like this is a MUST read for parents. It’s that important.

Our children’s childhoods need nature. Our families’ well-being will escalate when we spend more time together outside. And the earth needs future stewards who know how to live within their environment in a respectful, appreciative manner.

Our culture is not headed in that direction. It’s up to individual families to ensure our kids have a connection to nature — studies have shown that direct exposure to nature is essential for a child’s healthy physical and emotional development.

As Louv himself says, “The children and nature movement is fueled by this fundamental idea: the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.”

It’s not just an “oh well” thing that you can no longer see kids playing outside when you drive through a suburb. It’s an alarm for a much-needed wake-up call.

Our next Book Club gathering is this Thursday, and all are welcome to join! Even if you haven’t yet scored a copy of the book, you’re free to join in the discussion at the forums. Be sure to reserve a copy at the local library, or you can order one at Amazon through the Simple Mom Shop, which will help support this site and the Book Club.

This week, we’ll start with discussing chapters one and two. As a preface, please understand that this book reads a little more… “cerebrally” than our previous read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I don’t want you to get discouraged, because Louv begins the work with a background of America’s history with nature. It’s very fascinating, trust me. We’re going to have a great discussion.

I hope you’ll join us! Last Child in the Woods is a great start to the summer, and I hope reading it will be an impetus for us parents to provide our kids opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

Do your kids like being outside? How do you encourage them to spend time with the trees instead of a screen?

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