My topic was Nature Deficit Disorder. Below is a very condensed version. Tell me what you think. Are children truly at risk because of the decreased amount of time they spend outdoors? Do children spend less time outside now than they did a generation ago?
“Go out and play” are four little words uttered by Mothers nationwide. These words have different meanings to different individuals. For some, playing outside involves team sports such as soccer or baseball. For others, it means gathering up all the toys that little arms can carry before quickly becoming bored or too hot or too sweaty. For others it embodies the wild, creative play of tramping through the woods and building stick forts or tiptoeing through a stream while catching frogs. Author Richard Louv calls this lost connection with the outdoors Nature Deficit Disorder or NDD While NDD is not an actual diagnosis, it hammers home the fact that today’s generation of children struggle with the concept of spending hours outside away from scheduled structure and constant adult direction.
We as parents have the opportunity to expose our children to an idea bigger than what is taught in the classroom. Classrooms may assign children to create museum worthy dioramas of the deep blue sea or the jungles of Madagascar but it is vitally important for children to have actual hands-on experience. This can teach the the life cycle of the frogs they find in their back yard and the differences between the pileated woodpecker and the downy woodpecker and of course the most important, “Leaves of three, let it be.”
Today’s children have become so acclimated to relying on technology for entertainment that when they are sent outdoors it is viewed as a form of punishment. They often have an overwhelming urge to be entertained as opposed to being able to entertain themselves.
Nor do they appear to have the freedom to meander through their neighborhood for many reasons. Parental worries are at the top of that list. It’s natural and normal to want to protect our children from potential harm, but gone are the days of being outdoors from daylight until dark.
I believe that Nature Deficit Disorder is an abandonment of wilderness. Children no longer have that ability, time, or inclination to enjoy wild, solitary free play outdoors and if they are outside, they need something to keep them entertained. Many of today’s children of technology rely heavily on iPods, hand-held video games, and cell phones while other children rely on skateboards and bicycles. I also feel that while the age of technology is here to stay and in most cases is truly a positive benefit; this is one instance where technology should be put aside to allow children to regain lost creativity and embrace the outdoors with unadulterated enthusiasm.
Author Richard Louv wrote Last Child in the Woods. I referred to this book many times over the last semester. A lot of what he has to say is refreshing, but I felt other parts of it were alarmist and it was easy to get lost in the overwhelming amount of details he included. The book is available on amazon. The last time I checked you could snag a copy for around $8.
I look forward to what your opinions are.