Kids are plugged into Xboxes and iPads, but take them into the woods and they don’t know what to do. Kids have lost the freedom to wander and explore the natural world around them. There’s even a name for it: Nature Deficit Disorder.
What is Nature Deficit Disorder?
According to experts like Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods," nature deficit disorder is a societal disorder that occurs when people get disconnected from nature.
When most of today's adults were growing up, they spent 70-80% of their free time outside. Now children spend 5% of their time outside, instead spending an average of 6 hours a day in front of a screen.
According to Louv and other experts, this has very real physical and cognitive costs for children.
What are the Consequences?
- Obesity. As many as 26% of 2- to 17-year-olds are overweight or obese.
- Poor development. The Canadian Paediatric Society says kids are not active enough for optimal growth and development.
- Lack of learning opportunities. “The child’s motivation for learning is greater when they are outside,” says Cam Collyer, Program Director at Evergreen.
- A lack of connection with the outdoor environment leads to apathy towards the long term health and sustainability of the planet, says outdoor educator Grant Linney.
Tips to Get Your Kids Outside:
- Be intentional about getting your kids outdoors. “Parents and grandparents and other positive adults are gonna have to take kids into nature themselves,” says Louv. “It’s not going to happen accidentally.”
- Even if you hate nature, don't discourage your children. “It’s important to take your kids (outside) and try and hold back some of your resistance and let them explore and discover,” says Collyer.
- Check the conservation areas and local parks for programs for your kids.
- If your child is scared of all things creepy and crawly, take your child to outdoor programs with other children. If they see other children doing it, they may not be so afraid. It also helps if they see you handling little creatures.
- “Change the eww into an ahhh,” says Linney. Get kids to feel and touch the outdoors.
- Go outside and just let kids explore. If they find something, use that as a teachable moment.
- Try to encourage your child’s school to become an EcoSchool.
- Linney encourages parents to ask the province to provide funding to school boards so that they can expand educational outdoor experiences. That way kids develop a connection with the outdoors that can enrich their learning.
Watch our interview with Richard Louv, Cam Collyer and Grant Linney on Nature Deficit Disorder