Nature Deficit Disorder is a phrase coined by Richard Louv, author of Last Child In The Woods, to describe the negative side effects of spending too little time learning and playing outdoors. These side effects include “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, obesity, Vitamin D deficiency, and other maladies” (2008, p. 35).
Louv’s book focuses on the divide between children and nature. Kids today are suffering from the physical and mental consequences of spending the majority of their time inactive and in front of screens. Spending time outside provides endless opportunities to make joyful memories and learn through hands-on activities, but too many kids are missing out. Older generations spent far more time outside than kids do today. Today, the attraction of technology, safety concerns, and limited outdoor availability keep kids indoors. This drastic shift in behavior has unforeseeable repercussions, but it isn’t too late to make a change in your own family and inspire others to follow suit.
The obvious solution to preventing Nature Deficit Disorder is to spend more time outside, but it’s not that simple. Parents should guide their children in forming a positive connection to all the mysterious and awe inspiring gifts that nature provides. Louv urges his readers to focus on everything that is gained when children have a strong relationship with nature: “By weighing the consequences of the disorder, we can become more aware of how blessed our children can be- biologically, cognitively, and spiritually- through positive physical connection to nature” (2008, p. 35).
Join the movement to get kids back outside by following these steps.
Find Activities You Love
Talk to your family about activities and hobbies that take place outdoors that you would enjoy doing together. Hobbies could include fishing, hiking, skiing, picnicking, walking, or even drawing with sidewalk chalk…the sky's the limit! Remember that the more you enjoy doing something, the more your little one will enjoy it too. And the more time they spend outside as a baby, the more likely they will continue this healthy habit as they grow up.
Bring the Outdoors in and the Indoors out
A great way to ensure that your family is spending more time outdoors is to make your backyard or patio more comfortable. Create an oasis that makes you want to get outside. Likewise, bringing plants indoors, especially in the winter, offers many of the same benefits as being outdoors does. Let your kids help with this project by creating indoor and outdoor spaces that help your family connect more with nature and with each other. Plan to eat one meal a week outside with your family, or set aside 15 minutes every morning to enjoy your coffee while rocking your baby on your front porch.
Invest in Memories
Toys break, get lost, or eventually get stored in the basement. Instead of buying your kids the latest gadget for their birthday, spend your money on an experience that you can have together. Go for a picnic in the park, plan a camping trip, or start a garden together. Memories that you and your child make will last forever: “What’s real- what’s enduring is a view from a mountaintop, a soaring bird of prey, a rainbow after a summer’s rain- these things leave a lasting impression…” (Louv, 2008, p. 77) The exposure to the outdoors and the bonding experience with your child is time well spent and more valuable than any tangible gift.
Think About Your Own Childhood
What do you remember most about your own childhood? Exploring your neighborhood with friends? Weekends at the beach with your family? Building a treehouse in your backyard? Where did you learn the most, feel the most alive, and how important are those memories? Think about what you want your child to remember most and take the steps to create memories they will always cherish. The influence you have on your children is immeasurable; it will shape who they become, their habits and traditions, and the future generations of your family. You can inspire everyone you love to seek more meaningful experiences that take place in the great outdoors.
Connecting with nature isn’t about exploring as much of the outdoors as possible, it’s about connecting with the outdoors that is readily available. The same plot of land can be explored every day and have something new to offer: “Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries” (Louv, 2008, p. 95). You could spend a lifetime learning about the plants in your neighborhood or the birds that nest in the pine tree in your front yard. Learn the names of different species of bats that live in your state, familiarize yourself with the local vegetation, discover where in your city has the best view of the stars. Getting up close to nature awakens the senses and the soul and teaches our children to be more thoughtful citizens of our planet.
“We have a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this earth and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole” (Louv, 2008, p. 316).
Humble Bee wants to help you and your family connect with nature by creating products that go the distance. Our Free Spirit Diaper Bag is lightweight, durable, and machine washable. It also has plenty of pockets for all your baby necessities and an insulated pocket for bottles. Its exterior is all weather repellent and reflective to increase nighttime visibility. Pack up everything you and your baby need for a full day of adventures.