Nature-deficit disorder is not an official diagnosis but a way of viewing the problem, and describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses. The disorder can be detected in individuals, families, and communities (Louv, 2005).
In Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods (2005), he coins the phrase “nature deficit disorder.” What Louv is referring to is the increased lack of contact our children have with nature and the resulting consequences on the social, cognitive and physical development and health of our children. According the Kaiser Family Foundation (2005), our children are spending less than half the time out of doors that their parents did growing up. Another longitudinal study found that children under 13 living in the United States spend on average only about half an hour of unstructured time outdoors each week (Hofferth & Sadberg, 2001). It is clear that our children today spend much more time indoors than they do outdoors and some believe this is leading to some significant impacts. Louv (2005) cites research to suggest that this emerging “nature deficit disorder” among our children is linked to epidemic rises in childhood obesity, increasing social and cognitive delays as our children enter the school systems and rises in diagnoses of Attention Deficit/Hyper-Active Disorder (ADHD).
It’s intuitive—many of us know the benefits of spending time out of doors because that was our experience growing up. We learned many valuable skills—observation/inference, team work, interdependence, independence and self-confidence, natural consequences and more. We learned science while digging in the dirt, playing in the pond or climbing in trees. Encourage your children to spend time outdoors, or better yet, go outside with them! The following resources could be useful to for ideas of things to do outside: