Nature has the power to make children healthier, happier and smarter, but over the last few generations, childhood has moved indoors, leaving kids disconnected from the natural world. This worldwide trend has profound implications for children’s healthy development—and the future of our planet. Nature Deficit Disorder is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature and it is not meant to be a medical diagnosis.
Although human beings have been urbanizing, and then moving indoors, since the introduction of agriculture, social and technological changes in the past three decades have accelerated that change. Among the reasons: the proliferation of electronic communications; poor urban planning and disappearing open space; increased street traffic; diminished importance of the natural world in public and private education; and parental fear magnified by news and entertainment media.
An expanding body of scientific evidence suggests that nature-deficit disorder contributes to a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. Research also suggests that the nature-deficit weakens ecological literacy and stewardship of the natural world. These problems are linked more broadly to what health care experts call the “epidemic of inactivity,” and to a devaluing of independent play.
We help teens overcome nature deficit disorder.
Nonetheless, we believe that society’s nature-deficit disorder can be reversed. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods says, “The quality of the nature experience depends on how direct the experience with nature is. Are kids getting their hands wet and their feet muddy? These types of activities can help kids learn to have confidence in themselves and power to make independent decisions.
“One reason for this is the risk-taking inherent in outdoor play, which plays an important role in child development. Without independent play, the critical cognitive skill called executive function is at risk. Executive function is a complex process, but at its core is the ability to exert self-control, to control and direct emotion and behavior. Children develop executive function in large part through make-believe play. The function is aptly named: When you make up your own world, you’re the executive. A child’s executive function, as it turns out, is a better predictor of success in school than IQ.
“Any green space will provide some benefit to mental and physical well-being. Connection to nature should be an everyday occurrence. Programs that infuse education with direct experience, especially in nature, have the greatest impact [on connection to nature.]”
We focus on quality nature experiences away from electronics, television, and other stationery indoor activities, allowing our students to get their hands in the dirt to heal from their past. Call us today to see if we are the right fit for your family’s needs.
For more information on Nature-deficit Disorder, please visit: https://www.childrenandnature.org