So, what does “Nature Deficit Disorder” mean? It is a term proposed by Richard Louv in his book, “Last Child in the Woods”. He uses it to describe the chasm forming between the children of today and nature, and how this is having detrimental effects on their behavior. One main factor is that children are now drowning in technology. Each day the average North American child spends less than 30 minutes outside and more than 7 hours in front of a screen. How do we start to fix it? We start with ourselves and our children. Here are four pointers on how to do that.
Sharing with Others
One of Louv’s suggestions is to put together a “Family Nature Club”. This is a good way to motivate yourself and others to get outside, and build up a community while at it. Examples of activities you may meet up for include: paddling, going for hikes, and camping trips. One might organize a group like this through a social media platform like Facebook. On the Children and Nature Network website, you can sign up to be included in a community forum where environmentally minded people knock around their ideas. Recently I organized an outside activity for local children and you can read about it in my post, “Survival in the Woods“!
When outdoor fun isn’t happening, and your child is slumped over their tablet or computer, there are websites they can connect with nature to. One of these is Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots, a site they can stop in at to explore how youth around the globe are actively helping out our natural world. National Geographic Kids has a virtual interactive game called Animal Jam, where a child can travel through different lands learning a variety of nature-related facts.
Another engaging activity that can be pursued whether indoors or out is to snuggle up with your child and become absorbed by a nature book. The following are good suggestions:
“Owl Moon”, by Jane Yolen:
A father and daughter take a walk in the woods making occasional stops to mimic the call of a Great Horned Owl. They are eventually rewarded with a brief encounter.
“Wolf Island”, by Cecilia Godkin:
A family of wolves leave an island for the mainland and it is demonstrated how the ecosystem changes with their disappearance.
Here are some other books with beautiful illustrations on this theme.
Keeping it Simple
There is also something simple one can do, and it is this: Let them play outside. There are doors in buildings and those lead to fresh air, and even in the biggest cities, some kind of nearby green space. Once upon a time children regularly ventured outside to run through and explore fields, climb trees, and simply observe a colony of ants. In today’s busy, technologically distracting world, nature is where they can center themselves.
Finally, “Nature Deficit Disorder” is just an accurate way to describe the current problem of children not getting a large enough dose of nature in their daily lives. The issue itself seems simple enough and, hopefully, can be easily reversed. Expose your child to the natural world in any way you can. This does nothing but benefit them and nature, both of which deserve it.