The day after Christmas is always a big shopping day here in New Zealand. So I wasn’t surprised a couple of years ago to see a picture of a packed shopping mall on the front page of the paper. But what I was surprised and even disgusted by was this comment by one parent after she was asked why she and her 4 kids were in the mall. She said “I didn’t know what else to do with them.”
Seriously. This is New Zealand. Christmas season falls during summer time. We are in a city where it takes less than 10 minutes to get to the beach, the mountains, the lakes or the rivers. And she couldn’t figure out what to do with her kids.
That’s when I realized that children today really are prime candidates for Nature Deficit Disorder. It’s a term coined by Richard Louv, author of the best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods and recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal for encouraging more contact between children and the natural environment.
Research has shown that interacting with nature is one of the best ways to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. But other lifestyle changes – lack of time, concern for safety, the growth of technology – have resulted in an increasingly sedentary and indoor lifestyle among children.
Nature Deficit Disorder, while not a medical condition, will affect a child’s overall wellbeing. So reconnecting children and nature needs to become every parent’s priority. The steps are easy. Just start by opening the door.