Parents, there’s a new issue affecting kids around the world. It can wreak havoc on your children’s mental and physical health, and it’s spreading fast.
We’re talking about ‘nature deficit disorder’.
We live in an increasingly connected and online world, able to conduct a wide array of day-to-day activities via a screen. This translates to more time spent indoors, and less time outdoors in nature. So, what effect does this have on our kids?
Well, nature deficit disorder, for one.
What is nature deficit disorder?
As the name suggests, nature deficit disorder is the idea that humans, children, in particular, are spending less time outdoors than they once did, resulting in a wide range of behavioural problems.
The term was coined by Richard Louv, a child advocacy expert and author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Although it’s not an official medical diagnosis, nature deficit disorder describes “the human costs of alienation from nature”.
What are the effects of nature deficit disorder?
Louv suggests that the impact of too little exposure to nature can show up in various ways, including:
- Physical and emotional distress
- Attention disorders
- Diminished use of the senses
- Weak ecological literacy and advocacy
What causes nature deficit disorder?
It’s simple. Too little time spent outdoors could lead to a child experiencing nature deficit disorder. In this day and age, it’s far too easy to occur, with over-protective parents, over-scheduled kids, poor urban planning, disappearing open spaces and too much time spent using screens.
To identify why nature deficit disorder is a growing issue in the modern world, think back to when you were a kid and roaming free outdoors all day until your parents eventually called you in for your bath or dinner. Nowadays, it’s just not the same.
The benefits of being in nature
Both children and adults can benefit from spending more time in nature.
- A study by the University of Illinois which found that interaction with nature reduces symptoms of ADD in children.
- Lows blood pressure
- Reduces stress
- Improves emotional, mental and spiritual health
- Encourages more physical activity
- Increases environmental awareness
- Inspires creativity
- Better cognitive development
The effects of growing up near green spaces
A study from Denmark showed that children who grew up surrounded by nature had up to a 55% less chance of developing various mental disorders later in life. Using satellite data spanning from 1985 to 2013 to map the proximity of green spaces to the childhood homes of 943,027 Danes, the study compared data on mental health outcomes for that population to access to green space. They found that living close to green space is linked to a lower risk of developing one of 16 different mental disorders.
Nature deficit disorder can be reversed!
The good news is that there’s a simple cure for ‘nature deficit disorder’ – just get outside!
Exposing your children to nature regularly from a young age can help them become healthier adults.
Here are some easy ideas for getting them out there
- Place strict limits on screen time
- Get them playing sport and other games outside
- Spend time listening to the birds calling
- Go on a scavenger hunt with a list of things to find outside
- Set up a treasure hunt
- Teach children to identify different trees, animals, bugs and birds
- Plan outdoor activities over the weekends
- Plant a veggie garden that your children will need to tend to
- Lead by example – if your kids see you spending time outside, they’ll be more likely to do the same
There’s no need to plan major nature getaways or excursions – simply including the outdoors in your everyday life is beneficial to your kids, preventing them from suffering from nature deficit disorder.
What are you waiting for? This article is finished, so get out there and have some fun!
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