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Nature exposure can combat ADD, electronics overload, and other modern problems. Nature exposure can combat ADD, electronics overload, and other modern problems.
Nature can help your kids make real life connectionsIn a concrete jungle kids can lose sight of the real world.

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Nature Deficit Disorder: The Disconnect Between our Children and the Environment

Nature Deficit Disorder

Do you remember catching lady bugs, or picking shapes out of clouds as a child? Perhaps you rode your bike, or went down the road to a friend's house for the day. Streets used to be full of children playing, shouting and running around. Now, a drive down any suburban street will reveal quiet yards and chirping birds, but no children. On a recent trip to a rural town my mother began to complain about kids playing basketball in the street, and then suddenly stopped, remembering that this is how things used to be. Kids used to play outside, where did they go?

What is Nature Deficit Disorder?

Nature deficit disorder was first coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. The term has been used to describe the shift from unstructured play time outdoors to highly regimented play, often indoors or with electronics. The result is that children don't have any connection with their natural environment, and according to Louv, this increases the occurrence and severity of disorders such as ADD and other behavioral and emotional disorders.

Why is this Happening?

Since the 1970's kids have spent an ever increasing amount of time indoors for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is the giant leaps we have made in technology. From black and white televisions we have grown to life-like videogames, miniscule music players, and hundreds of channels on the television. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend almost 6 hours a day hooked into some electronic device (television, videogames, or other media). When you can have virtual experiences, why bother to go outside and have your own?

Safety is also a huge issue for parents, as is time. It seems like we hear about the kidnapping or murder of an innocent child every week, and the problem isn't going away. Parents are afraid to let their children roam the streets and woods, for fear of who might be out there. Thus, it is far safer to keep kids inside or at structured activities like sports or camps. These days most parents work, and thus have little time to supervise their children at outside play. By the time most parents get home they just want to relax.

What are the Implications of Nature Deficit Disorder?

Louv firmly believes that a lack of connection to nature intensifies problems like ADD and other behavioral and emotional disorders. Science, it seems, is with him. Recent studies have found that contact with nature helps calm children with hyperactivity disorders, and have helped inner-city girls develop better self-discipline. Nature can help ground kids in a way that no amount of therapy or drugs can.

Of course, nature therapy isn't just for troubled children either. It's important to realize that the next generation, this multitude of electronically overdosed kids, is going to be the next steward of the planet. If nature is simply words on a page or a lesson to be learned, then kids have no connection to it. If you have no connection to nature, how can you care enough to save it?

What Can you Do?

If you are a parent the best thing you can do is let your child go outside and play! Give him unstructured time to use his imagination; you may just be surprised at how creative he is! With strict schedules and regimented play kids have no chance to grow creatively, but in the woods you child can pretend to be anything from a dinosaur to a cowboy, and he can see how precious our natural world is.

You can also volunteer to help teach children about nature. Bring fossils or plants in to school and help kids learn about everything from tracking to plant identification. If kids can touch and feel the natural world they will make the connections that will stay with them for a lifetime.

 So, the next time the sun is shining send your kids outside, and don't let them come back in until they're nice and dirty!

Submitted by SuperGreenMe on Nov 6, 2008