The benefits of children being around nature

Have you ever heard of Nature-Deficit Disorder?

Richard Louv has a brilliant book titled “Last Child In The Woods, Saving Our Children From
Nature-Deficit Disorder”.

The book warns parents about the dangers of allowing children to grow up without contact with
natural areas and also offers in-depth solutions to enhance children's problem-solving, critical
thinking, and decision-making skills.

So what exactly is Nature-Deficit disorder?

Nature-deficit disorder is the idea that human beings, especially children, are spending less time
outdoors, and the belief that this change results in a wide range of behavioural problems. These
behavioural problems include lethargy, Attention Deficiency Disorder (ADD) as well as

Richard Louv explores the idea that the way children understand and experience nature has
changed drastically and continues to change mainly because of technology. Nowadays, children
can most likely tell you about global environmental issues, but not about the last time they
explored the woods in solitude, went camping or laid in a field listening to the wind and watching
the clouds or stars at night.

A vast majority of children spend enormous hours in front of television screens, cell phones and
tablets. Their physical contact and intimacy with nature is rapidly fading.
So what are the benefits of children being around nature?

The Child Mind Institute is an independent, international non-profit organisation
dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health
and learning disorders.

The Child Mind Institute has listed seven benefits of children
being in nature.

● Nature promotes creativity and imagination
Nature allows children to think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the
world in innovative ways. This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact
meaningfully with each other as well as their surroundings.

● Nature provides children with exercise
Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting indoors. Walking and
running increases blood circulation, and it’s been proven that exercise makes children more

● Nature teaches responsibility
The consequences of neglecting nature are much greater. If a living organism is
mistreated or not taken care of properly, it dies. Entrusting a child to take care of a
living organism such as a plant means they’ll learn the consequences of what
happens when they forget to water a plant or neglect it in direct sunlight.

● Nature provides different stimulation
Nature is more stimulating than any technological device. It activates more senses
since you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. Children’s senses
narrow when they are not in a natural environment. Richard Louv warns that the lack
of nature, reduces the richness of human experience.

● Nature reduces stress and fatigue
According to the Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments require what’s
called ‘Directed Attention’, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhausts our
brains. In nature, children practice an effortless type of attention known as “Soft
Fascination’ that creates feelings of pleasure thus reduces fatigue and stress.

● Nature allows children to think
Richard Louv explains that the phenomena that occurs naturally in backyards and parks
everyday makes children ask questions about the earth and life. Nature seems to create a
unique sense of wonder for children that no other environment can provide.

● Spending time in nature builds confidence
Since nature is less structured unlike indoor environments, there are infinite ways to
interact with natural environments. This includes the backyard, to the park to the
local hiking trail or lake. Allowing your child to explore nature provides them with the
confidence to make decisions and the ability to control their own actions.

Technology might seem as the easier option to keep your children occupied or entertained, but
the effects can negatively impact your children drastically in the long-run.
Children need to be in contact with nature in order to ensure healthy development.

Richard Louv claims that causes for Nature-Deficit disorder include parental fears, restricted access to natural
areas, and the lure of electronic devices.

Nature should not be an abstraction to our children, but a reality. Nature is not something to
watch, consume, wear and ignore.

Nature should be acknowledged, respected and embraced. Ultimately it is the parent’s
responsibility to encourage the child to have a direct experience and more importantly a
relationship with nature.

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