Nature deficit disorder. I have been reading about that over the last few years. It’s defined as a disconnect between our children and their natural world. In his book of a few years ago, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv coined the phrase and suggests that the result can be attention problems, obesity, anxiety, and depression.
In a new book on the subject, The Truly Alive Child: For Those Who Seek A Grander Vision For Our Children, educator Simon Paul Harrison continues the dialog and says “Because the focus of our education system is almost solely on the rote memorization of information there’s so little room for a deep and meaningful relationship with nature to develop, and we should be deeply concerned about the long-term impact this will have on our children. Time outside in nature is so healthy for our children on every level; body, mind and soul. There are numerous scientific studies, and we can see with our own eyes what happens to children when they don’t value playing outside. Children develop obesity, suffer from a lack of creativity and even happiness.”
When Caroline and I were in South Africa, we couldn’t help but notice the connection with nature we saw around us, whether it was from the rangers who took us out on drives or in conversations with the various drivers who took us to and fro. In many areas outside the big cities, the people live on the land, and dependent on the land, and have to understand it. Very few of the children we saw had a cell phone, or a playstation, or a computer. Their playground was their neighborhood, and their toys were whatever they could find. Some rolled car tires using a stick to move it along, some played with worn out Barbie dolls on their front step. Their delight with seeing their photo in our digital camera was amusing.
In South Africa, knowledge about the environment is critical since it’s still very much dependent on farming, and in other areas, critical for survival. What I hope is that our society, for all its dependency on being plugged in, to set aside every day to be outside. To make sure that our children get time outside. It’s a challenge for parents, who are already caught in a frazzled day with appointments, and shopping, and meal planning, and working either inside the home or out. But when you think of all the things we are told that we should do to improve our health: eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, the one task that seems the simplest, the easiest and cheapest one to do: GET OUTSIDE IN NATURE, should be the one we should try to do the most.
(Below are pictures my daughter took on our trip. She was the one who used to hunt for earthworms and lizards, and the one who wanted to learn how to fish. She still shows a side that is very connected to the natural world.)
Send your ideas on how you and your family get out into nature here in the Hudson Valley! Write to me at email@example.com.