Are your children not getting as much sun as they should? They may have a case of nature-deficit disorder.
This condition is little considered and as a result, often left untreated. This article may be the first time you’ve read about it, so allow us to explain what it is and what you can do to prevent your kids from developing it.
What Is Nature-Deficit Disorder?
Nature-Deficit disorder refers to the idea that people, particularly children, are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a host of behavioral problems. It’s a little-known condition which medical manuals haven’t listed as a mental disorder.
Journalist and non-fiction author Richard Louv coined the term to alert people to the consequences of not being outdoors. He cited limited creativity, obesity, and depression as conditions that could result from having few or no outdoor experiences. The esteemed reporter started a movement to reintroduce children to nature.
So, does this condition have any scientific basis? The University of Melbourne demonstrated that nature-based play is essential for a child’s creativity. Their project, Running Wild showed that playing outdoors develops a child’s identity. It also instills an understanding of nature.
How does a parent prevent this disorder?
Nature has profound effects on the brain, according to research. Those who walk close to or through lush greenery are more attentive than those who walk through urban environments.
1. Relook at your child’s schedule
Parents fill their children’s schedules with one activity upon another, leaving them with little time to play outdoors. Plan outdoor time purposefully. Schedule it if you must. Go on adventures with your children every month and put these dates on your calendar.
Do remember that the outdoors can include your backyard, and barbecues count. Get your children to notice the little insects and creatures that may be around.
2. Motivate your children to start outdoor adventure clubs
Another way to prevent your kids from developing a nature-deficit disorder is to encourage them to join clubs or camps. They could start one themselves.
This activity is perfect for older children and teens who need a boost of self-esteem. Enroll them in outdoor camps, where they can experience abseiling activities and the treetop elements. Many of these camps focus on outdoor-based activities. Their aversion to the outdoors will diminish once they discover that going on treks isn’t as overwhelming as they think.
Alternatively, motivate them to start outdoor adventure clubs with their friends. The endeavor is a test of their leadership skills and confidence, which will build.
3. Get Over Your Fear of Strangers
The vast and wild outdoors are fodder for spine-chilling abduction stories. Strange people do lurk in them. That said, don’t give in to paranoia. Keeping your children indoors depletes your energy and hampers their imaginations. Balance is the key. While you want to let your kids experience the outdoors, make sure that they don’t do so unsupervised.
4. Go For Nature Walks With Your Kids
Children always enjoy a breath of fresh air. Go with them on a Moon Walk through the forest. Make a night of it, and tell a ghost story or two. Your children will love you if you keep things interesting.
Pick flowers, and describe them to your young ones. Gather fruit and allow your children to experience what nature has to offer. They will come to respect it.
While on these walks, do go on Fungi Hunts. Wild mushrooms abound, and they always fascinate children. Remind them not to touch these though, as they may be poisonous. Get your children to do bark rubbings of the different trees in the area.
Do look for signs of wildlife as well. Teach your children to recognize the presence of animals in the area. It’s also an opportunity to get them to practice safety.
5. Start a Nature Journal
The best way to cure nature-deficit disorder is to make an effort to overcome it. Get your children to do this by taking note of the natural things around them. They can start a nature journal. Do encourage them to collect the unusual leaves or flowers that they see, and put them in this book. They will soon realize the abundance of beauty around them.
6. Decrease Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting children to no more than 1-2 hours of quality programming, regardless of the medium used. Ensure that they do not use their mobile phones for more than half an hour per day. Encourage your children to spend more time outdoors instead.
7. Have a Daily Nature Break
Days are long, and we spend most of them in closeted urban environments. Give yourself a break from this when you are at home. Go for short walks to the park with your kids and the family dog. Everybody and every doggy will enjoy a breath of fresh air. The children will appreciate the change.
8. Surround Your Children With Nature
Doing this is essential if you live in a city environment. Forested areas may be rare, and outdoor experiences limited. If you face the constraints of city living, bring nature to you. Grow potted plants or have an area for them. Your love for all things natural will rub off on your kids.
9. Give Your Children A Camera
Bring out the budding photographers in your children. Do provide them with a camera with special instructions to photograph any strange creatures, plants or insects they see. They will develop a fascination for life around them. Also, they will take pride in the lovely images that they create.
10. Develop Mapping Skills
Trekking means having to read maps. Before embarking on nature walks, get your children to navigate the planned routes. They will learn to appreciate nature and become adept geographers.
Nature can be fun. You can combat nature-deficit disorder with these simple but fun and practical steps.
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