Are you and your children spending enough time in nature? Or are you stuck indoors or glued to your devices? You could develop Nature Deficit Disorder. It is never too late to get back to nature and nurture your mind and body.
What is nature deficit disorder?
These days, most of us spend a major part of our life within the confines of four walls. Most of us wish we were out there, far away from life’s hectic pace, the yearning to regroup and recharge drops pretty low down the priority list.
However, I have good news for you. Mother Nature’s loving arms are always open and welcoming. She understands that when we spend a lot of time indoors, it can create havoc with our health—causing physical and emotional distress. It can also lead to anxiety, depression and obesity, especially in kids—who become less focused at school.
Connecting with nature can be as simple as a walk in the park, or if you live near the beach, a walk on the beach enjoying the waves and digging your feet into the sand to prevent nature deficit disorder.
The problem is, we get so engrossed with our lives that we forget that we must disconnect to connect.
Fortunately, Nature is freely available to explore and has a direct measurable value from the mind-body angle. The immediate benefits one can enjoy are better overall health with lower blood pressure. Access to nature also leads to less stress. A walk in the park can be better than antidepressants for treating depression. Those who work in an environment with plants or green spaces like parks or woods nearby are happier and healthier.
In particular reference to children, experts state that when children are not in regular contact with nature, their academic performance and growth suffers. And this leads to Nature Deficit Disorder. The phrase was coined by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods which explains how the disconnection with nature has a negative effect on children today.
Thanks to rapid urban development, fewer children are able to play outdoors. And the present “plugged in” culture adds to the issue by keeping children indoors. While some adapt, the ones that don’t adapt develop the signs of NDD: difficulty focusing, obesity, anxiety and depression.
Of course, nature is not a magic remedy to cure sickness; however, parents can certainly leverage it as a therapy to help children stay attentive, build self-confidence, improve health and stay balanced.
We cannot deny that children are happier when they are outdoors
There’s evidence from research that nature can be a potential natural treatment for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) linking nature and behaviour. Green outdoor settings reduce ADHD symptoms in children. Nature therapy is important, considering how many children are treated with the drug Ritalin for ADHD.
I ask you: don’t you recall happy childhood memories of playing outside with your friends? What about summer vacations spent outdoors almost all the time? Some of you may have been lucky enough to even set up a tent or build a tree house. I remember spending all day in the yard collecting strange leaves and grinding them into a chutney and actually eating it in our pretend kitchen. I have lovely memories of family picnics, sleeping under the stars.
NDD is a timely reminder of glorious days past—an urge to get off that treadmill and enjoy Nature again.
In his book, Louv suggests that schools, while teaching children about nature, should take them outdoors on field trips and excursions, making it a part of the learning experience.
Now, as parents, one of our biggest goals is healthy children. What can we do to re-establish our children’s connection with nature and promote their well-being?
Some tips suggested by Louv are:
- Invite native flora and fauna into our lives. For example: maintain a bird bath. Add native plants to your garden, balcony, or lawn.
- Encourage children to discover a hidden Universe. This can be done by placing a scrap board on bare dirt. After a couple of days, lift the board to see what’s under it. Identify the creatures that have made it their shelter. Come back once a month to see who’s new.
- Suggest traditional hobbies such as collecting leaves, making a terrarium or aquarium. Go fishing.
- Enjoy backyard camping with a tent/canvas tepee during summer. (Check this out: https://www.globosurfer.com/best-budget-tents/)
- Cloudspotting with a backyard weather station. No special equipment required, except a view of the sky and a book to note down observations.
- Create green hour as a family tradition, practice it daily. This hour can be time for unstructured play and interaction with nature. Begin with fifteen minutes. Some age-appropriate independent exploration to help children develop new skills and build their confidence.
- Enjoy a hike. Can be a short route for smaller kids. Or gather neighborhood mommies with their strollers and go for weekly nature walks.
- Play a nature game: find ten creatures in the vicinity—birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, snails, frogs—can be footprints, mile holes and other signs that animals have passed by or live there.
- Get children to build a tree house/fort/hut with simple raw materials such as boards, sticks, blankets, boxes, ropes.
- Plant a garden. Choose seeds that grow quickly and yield vegetables that can be used by the family. Extra produce can be shared with neighbors or donated to food banks. Live in an apartment? Consider a vertical garden and containers.
Cirrostratus, cumulonimbus, or lenticularis, shaped like flying saucers, come to remind us that the clouds are Nature’s poetry, spoken in a whisper in the rarefied air between crest and crag– Gavin Pretor-Pinney, The Cloudspotter’s Guide.
Reconnecting with nature is best viewed as a stress-buster for the whole family, rather than another thing on the to-do list. The best thing is, nature therapy is enjoyable and inexpensive, with zero side-effects, unless you count the positive ones. Even if your child doesn’t get better grades as a result, the joy of spending time in nature, lost in Nature’s wonder with family is priceless.
The value of getting your children away from their “screens” is priceless.
With summer upon us, if you are planning to send your children to a summer camp, how about choosing one that gives them unstructured time in nature, where they can use their senses and enjoy themselves?
You know what they say…take time to smell the flowers.
Prevent Nature Deficit Disorder.
“Nature is imperfectly perfect filled with loose parts and possibilities, with mud and dust, nettles and sky, transcendent hands-on moments and skinned knees.” Louv
My evening walk in the park is the best time of my day. The greenery, the soothing breeze and the avian orchestra…all of these lift my spirits and calm me, make me so happy. I so wish I could really build a tent there, amidst all these beauties!
I have no kids except the fur baby kind. I think more kids need to go into nature because too many do not walk in nature enjoying the smells, sights and sounds. When I was a kid, I grew up in the country on a sawmill so I often played I. The sawdust pile(my poor mom), or on the logs. I played tag at night with my brother and neighbour kids. One of the nicest memories was my school would ask us to bring food that we can cook over a fire. I would bring ham, potato and an apple with cinnamon. The school kids walked into the bush behind the property and we were taught how to make a fire, collect big logs to sit on, make sure you bring a pillow and we would cook our food over the fire. This was done in January or February and often very cold, once there was a snowstorm but once we were in the Bush it felt great. I doubt they could do this now
I love your ideas for getting kids outside. I enjoy taking my Grandkids outside – they have Nature Deficit Disorder for sure. Especially in the winter… We are all ready for some time outdoors – summer is coming where I am. Soon, I hope!
Thank you Kimberly! Most kids miss out on spending time in nature these days, thanks to pressure from school, from peers. How wonderful that you enjoy time with your grandkids. Here’s wishing summer comes soon! Where I live, it is pretty hot right now!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Nature Deficit Disorder. Are you at risk?
Aha! We wrote on similar topics today! 🙂
Considering that our kids prefer to spend more time with their gadgets and that too indoors, they are bound to suffer from NDD. Those are some fab pointers and tips to bring our kids closer to the nature. Thanks for sharing, Vidya!
Thank you Shilpa! Sometimes I feel for today’s kids–the kind of hectic schedules they have with school work and other activities–even if they want to, they sometimes do not have the time to have fun outdoors!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Nature Deficit Disorder. Are you at risk?
Nice post and nice read very interesting i really like it thanks for share.
I just love this. As someone who is in nature everyday I totally afree with what you are sharing and interesting about ADHD – makes sense
I have a cabin in the mountains just an hour from home. I go up there every other weekend. There is no TV, Internet, or cell phone service there, so I am in nature and unplugged! Here at home, I am trying an experiment — no TV. It started when my cable box went on the blink. Rather than fix it, I canceled cable and decided to see how it was without TV. I have to say, I’ve realized that I spent a lot more time watching TV than I realized. When I’m at the cabin I never think about it, but here at home, I think about it several times a day.
Not sure if I will reintroduce TV, but for now I’m going to see how long it takes to not want it so much every day!
I feel the same way as you about kids needing to be outside. I loved being outside when I was a child.
I remember you mentioning the cabin Galen. I have a lovely visual of you there. I even remember you once had a fall there and my heart was in my mouth!
It is interesting to read about your TV–my desktop computer crashed (again–for the fourth time this year) and now, instead of chasing it, I am seriously wondering if I should even keep it since we end up working on our laptops anyway. Just because we’re used to something for years needn’t mean we always need it. Still, sitting on the fence with that one. Hugs–always happy to see you! You know that!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Nature Deficit Disorder. Are you at risk?
Oh I can think of so many people who may have this 😀
I love the outdoors and so does my husband! Nothing like experience nature every now and then and letting it teach us many many lessons.
SO TRUE, Vidya!
Nature is GOD. God is Nature.
So many lessons & Beauty.
We have been given SO MUCH, darling…So very much.
I, for one, appreciate it abundantly.
And I love you more than coffee w/ whip cream. xxx
Ash!! I can proudly say that I do not have any Nature deficit disorder!! I luckily live inside a cantonment in a small obscure town. Theres enough greenery around with fresh air and long winding roads that go into deep woods.:))
Yup nature has the most healing effect on the tired mind and body. The bird bath and bird feed give me huge amounts of pleasure as I sit and observe the various birds that land on my balcony to chirp and eat!
Lovely post Vidya with some great tips to introduce nature to kids!
If I miss even one weekend of not going out, I start feeling this disorder 😊. Being in nature is so soothing and relaxing, that it can make you forget half your problems.
Now that I’m working at an outside job and not in control of my own schedule, I think I definitely have a nature deficit. I used to could take off in the middle of the day for long walks in the sunshine. Nature restores me and has so many health benefits, as you point out. Thanks for the reminder to get outside!
I didn’t know there’s an actual name for this now! I’m lucky I live in paradise, but I can fall prey to the same indoor habits. I feel sad for kids who grow up mostly indoors. Great reminder!
I love this Vidya. And it makes so much sense to me…simply being outside walking and being aware of the trees rustling in the breeze and the birds chirping is always so soothing to my soul. It enervates me and I can feel the energy of nature in my body. And as for this “The value of getting your children away from their “screens” is priceless” …. this is vital to their wellbeing. They’re are so many studies about the effects of screen time on the brains of young children…none of them good.
I absolutely love this. I totally agree that getting outside is a way to recharge. I try to do this several times a day but I really want to do this more often.
Ah I miss nature so much. With my daughter it’s difficult to have alone time. Me and my husband worked a lot in our garden, it’s so theurapetic. But it’s still too cold and I’m sure we will tackle our garden when it gets nice and warm. I actually want to go away for a weekend and have some nice and relaxing and quiet nature time!
I and my family are really fortunate because we live in a house where everywhere greenery because my husband’s hobby is gardening. On the roof, around our home even in the room, he plants different kinds of plants which are beneficial for health. Thanks for sharing!
Nigar Rahman recently posted…Traveler v2.7.5 Nulled – Travel Booking WordPress Theme
Insightful post! I agree with mother nature is always welcoming. I love the idea of kids playing outside as much as possible. I know for sure when I’m down or feel anxious and I go for a short walk, my mood changes in a positive way. Sometimes I enjoy it so much that I create ways to stay for a little while. I don’t know what it is about nature, but it makes it magic on me.
Vidya I just love this article – I am a huge fan of being outdoors and in nature. We are fortunate enough to live in a small town and our houses is right on the beach. After I’ve dropped my kids at school start my day walking from my house to the end of the beach and back. Its about 3km there and back so it’s not too long to distract me from my work but long enough for me to feel the benefits! On the weekends we don’t go out much – we just go outside!
i love your website. It is so true that a lot of kids don’t get enough nature.
Ahh I love marveling at Gods creations. I go driving all the time just to look around and explore! Waterfalls are my favorite things to look at and find, they’re so beautiful and majestic. My kids need to get out more lol my boy is pretty good about going outside but my older daughter who’s almost 13, well she loves her room lol..
I have always loved to spend time camping, but I haven’t been able to do that recently. So my stand-in is gardening, even if I have a very small space. I know what you mean that it can be stressful if you don’t have that time outside. I appreciated your list of suggestions for outdoor activities!
This is definitely me! Running an online business means I’m stuck behind my PC all day almost every day of the week. I live next to a lovely dog-walking park, but seldom make time to go for a walk. Now that I know that nature deficit disorder is a thing, I’m going to make more of an effort to go to the park.
Thank you for this informative post! Appreciate it!