Archive for March 11th, 2012

Nature-deficit Disorder

Does outdoor play help keep the doctor away?

There is a generation gap when it comes to playing and enjoying the great outdoors, say experts

Is modern living resulting in more people becoming disconnected from green spaces and the natural world, at the expense of our health and well-being?

Most concern is centred around children, who – say campaigners – are missing out on opportunities afforded to previous generations, ones as simple as climbing trees or getting their knees dirty.

In an increasingly urbanised, electronic-based, risk-adverse world, the adults of the future are displaying the symptoms of “nature-deficit disorder”.

The term was coined by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Wood.

In the introduction to his book, he said that over the past few decades the way children understood and experienced nature had “changed radically”.

“The polarity of the relationship has reversed,” he wrote.

“Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment – but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading.

“That’s exactly the opposite of how it was when I was a child.”

Mr Louv acknowledged that nature-deficit disorder was “by no means a medical diagnosis”.

But, he added: “It does offer a way about the problem and possibilities – for children and for the rest of us as well.”

‘Balanced diet’

Consultant Tim Gill, author of the report Sowing the Seeds: Reconnecting London’s Children with Nature, agreed that the phrase did not have any meaningful clinical basis.

"Forest schools" help children with behavioural or emotional problems, research suggests

“I think it is slightly overstating the case to imply that there is some sort of clinical condition that children that do not get into nature will have,” he told BBC News.

“The way I unpack the idea is that regular contact with nature is part of a balanced diet of childhood experiences.

“If children do not have those experiences then they are not going to thrive to the same degree as if they did,” he added.

“They are also likely to grow up not caring about the world around them; while it is not a clinical condition, it should be something that worries us.”

A 2009 report by Natural England found that only 10% of children played in woodland, compared with 40% of their parents’ generation.

Mr Gill’s report, commissioned by the London Sustainable Development Commission, listed 12 recommendations that it felt could help address the deficit.

Among them were:

  • Promote better use of accessible green space in order to increase the use of under-utilised areas,
  • Promotion of “forest schools” and similar approaches to learning in the outdoors,
  • And encouraging schools to give greater emphasis to offering children “engaging nature experiences”.

The report championed the use of forest schools because it quoted research by the Forestry Commission that showed lessons and activities within a woodland appeared to have a beneficial effect for children with emotional or behavioural problems.

Source: BBC News read more


I have been saying this for years. “Kids need to get their knees dirty.” Not only dirty, but they need to fall off their bikes and skin their knees, if they don’t, they don’t know that it hurts.

We have become super protective, wrapped our kids in cotton-wool to prevent any number of remotely perceived threats and dangers that we have stunted their growth.

“There is a growing body of research that says getting outside regularly is good for kids, but that is fighting a massive zeitgeist, which says that if you let your kid out of your sight, then they will come to harm.”

The Sowing the Seeds report also identified the perceived risks associated with children playing outside without supervision as a reason for the nature deficit.

“Children today do not enjoy the same everyday freedom of movement as previous generations,” it concluded. – From the BBC article

We have become paranoid.

When I was a kid, a skinned knee was like a medal for some heroic deed; sure we cried, then got on our bikes, or got back into the tree; but go running home to Mom was unheard of, an act of cowardice (given that the injury wasn’t life threatening, but we instinctively knew). To spend the rest of the day with coagulated blood that had dripped down your shin into your sock was life.

Today when kids skin their knees they become blathering little sooks that run off home to Mom with more tears than blood.

As kids, we left home after breakfast and sometimes returned for lunch. The rule was when the streetlights came on we had to be home. Any unnecessary interruption of those precious daylight hours was unheard of, we needed adventure.

Yes, the kids of today are suffering from nature-deficit disorder.

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