Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nature Defecit Disorder - Not This Week!

Fall has arrived with a vengeance and we are absolutely loving it!
The view from my front door this morning.

It really snuck up on me since the end of summer was so busy. Now life is a little more relaxed and being in MN, we know that our days of fun outside are numbered. We are having some unseasonably gorgeous weather lately and I have been trying my best to get outside with the kids as much as possible.

It helps to live across the street from a playground!
I purchased a book off of Amazon a few days ago that has come strongly recommended from a few different sources. It is called Last Child in the Woods written by Richard Louv (2005). Admittedly I have not read it yet, though I will as soon as I find the time. I have however, heard a lot about the main subject of the book: Nature-Deficit Disorder (NDD). NDD is a term coined by Louv that caught on in the early education world and it refers to the fact that most kids of this generation are getting less and less unstructured outdoor time.

There is a strong correlation between a lack of time in nature, and depression, anxiety disorders, and ADD.

Part of the problem is that for the majority of kids, being indoors equals screen time - whether it be computer, TV, video game, etc. TV is not the devil and can be a great educational tool for kids, but this screen time is not being balanced with nature time. A limited set of senses are used while watching TV or playing video games. When a child plays outside, his/her senses are all stimulated at a greater rate.
Checkout our awesome fall colors!

Even when kids do get outside, a lot of the time it is spent doing structured activities like going to soccer practice. I'm not knocking soccer, it is a lot of fun; Hopefully one day, I can be a soccer mom. It doesn't allow kids to explore though, and really get into nature. Kids want to jump in the leaves, build a snowman, skip rocks in a pond, splash in puddles, dig in the dirt, and find bugs under rocks. It is healthy for them to be able to do this and should be encouraged.

One of the biggest obstacles to allowing kids unstructured outdoor time is society. We all have been taught by the media that the world is dangerous and that it is irresponsible or downright negligent to let your kids out alone. I remember being a kid and biking the neighbourhood for hours on end. There are much fewer kids doing the same today, and the funny thing is, that the rate of abduction and other such occurrences have actually decreased since my own childhood.

I may know for a fact that the chances of something really bad happening to my child are low, but there is more to consider than just that. There is a lot of judgement out there in regards to letting your kids out.

I remember a couple of months ago during a summer rain shower, my little guy wanted to run outside in the rain. He loves the rain! I had his sister to keep occupied so I let him run outside in the front yard on his own. He is only 2 so of course I had the front door wide open and I kept an eye on him from the living room window. That did not stop 3 cars from stopping and looking at him worryingly in the short 15 minutes he was out there. One of the cars didn't leave until I stepped into the open front doorway so that the woman driving the car could see me.

I am not judging these people for being concerned, but it does show the mindset that feels so prevalent out there in regards to children playing alone. While I can't speak from experience, I honestly doubt that this was the case (at least the such a degree) a few generations ago.

The other limiting factor (especially for freeze-baby me) is weather. Here in Minnesota, it is winter from November to March. . . sometimes longer. During the really cold days it is flat out inappropriate for small children to be playing outside. For very small kids, the big poofy snow suits make it hard to enjoy the time outside too. I am positive my kids are all over the NDD in the winter.

That is why we try our hardest to take advantage of the warm months and these lingering beautiful days of fall:
It may not be Yellowstone, but our front yard (well. . . the neighbour's) does just fine for some outdoor fun!
Baby Boo loves playing with older kids.
The neighbour kids are a ton of fun.
Seriously, can you get any more stereotypically fall than this?

When was the last time you spent time outside in nature with your kids?

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear from you!