The Demise of Kids and Nature

I recently finished reading Richard Louv’s thought-provoking book Last Child In the Woods, which discusses how children nowadays don’t have the connection to nature that kids even 10 years ago had. Electronics has consumed their life as well as organized sports.

Sometimes I think I was the last generation to really appreciate nature. I was always outside in the summer and on the weekends and on school days when I didn’t have a lot of homework. I still love the outdoors, although, I don’t get to enjoy it as much because I’m working, but many times I combine my work with being outside — I’ll take my laptop and sit on the balcony or somewhere outside and write on a nice, warm summer day because living in the Midwest — winter comes way too fast!

Nature deficit disorder, a term introduced in Last Child refers to the ongoing alienation of nature. More and more children are turning to overstimulating electronics for play and have become isolated from the positive effects of nature — even the sun beating down on them. Also, children and parents have become afraid of nature because “bad things can happen outside” such as abduction or beatings or killings, which parents hear about in the news everyday.

Now, more than ever children need to be exposed to and educated about the environment. Nature sparks interest in saving the environment and animals. Nature also sparks creativity, something many children lack nowadays because they play video or computer games all day. Nature also teaches children to be kind to one another and appreciate the differences among us.

Research also shows that interaction with the natural environment plays an important role in children’s development, including building problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as fostering creativity. For example, in his book, Louv points to research on attention-deficit disorder at the University of Illinois, in which exposure to nature was shown to decrease ADD symptoms.

Louv encourages parents to take their kids hiking and explore the great outdoors. Also, let kids spend unstructured time outside instead of always setting up time for structured play such as soccer or baseball, which is great too, but unstructured time is just as much fun.

Of course parents need to keep an eye on their children, but let your kids just be kids and explore nature. For more ideas about how your kids can spend fun outside visit http://www.nwf.org/Get-Outside/Be-Out-There/Why-Be-Out-There/What-is-a-Green-Hour.aspx.