As I was starting out on this whole redeem your ground journey, I was told by two completely unrelated people that I should read “The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. And I’m very glad that they did. It’s a great read – it’s thought-provoking and for those of you who need facts and figures, it has them. But beyond all that, at least to me, his findings just make a ton of sense. In a nutshell, Louv connects a number of the disturbing and growing trends in today’s “plugged-in” world (e.g., depression, obesity, ADD, etc.) to our lack of direct contact with nature. Although not a medical condition, Louv believes that what he has coined as “nature-deficit disorder” (NDD) is having a grave impact on our children, which has and will continue to have a devastating impact on our families and our communities.
Louv attributes much of NDD to the point that kids are staying inside more…obviously. The reasons he suggests for this being the case are a bit chicken-or-the-egg-ish. Clearly, instead of spending time outside kids are increasingly spending time inside in front of a screen of some sort. So the proliferation of technology-based toys and other forms of entertainment have contributed to our new reality, which is almost absent of an appreciation for nature. Beyond that, he goes on to say that our kids’ being inside more today than any other generation in history is likely due to a number of reasons:
- as parents we are more fearful of strangers, germs, and injury…
so in order to “protect” our children we limit their freedom while playing outside
- we have filled much of our children’s free time with organized sports and other activities…again, leaving little time to be outside enjoying and benefiting from unstructured play and exploration
- schools seem to be assigning more homework, giving less time to be outside
- we live in a much more regulated and litigious society…feeding into our fears forcing us to stay in between the lines
- there has been a loss of natural areas and therefore access to it is limited.
His reasoning seems logical enough to me…but I would also add that letting your children veg-out in front of a screen is just easier. Life is stressful and parenting is difficult…and as parents, we too seem to be more distracted than ever before (for some of the same reasons our kids are!). So we look for ways to make both (life and parenting) easier and more convenient. Unfortunately, like with many solutions of convenience in other areas of our lives, we are seeing the long-term negative impact of taking the easy way out.
After reading this book I saw more clearly what’s at stake…my girls. It reminded me how important it is for Britt and me to stay vigilant on being intentional about being outside with our girls and making sure that they have unstructured time outside. It also helped clarify one of the primary reasons Britt and I started this blog and why I launched my exterior design studio – to help families get outside more…enjoying the outdoors and connecting with each other.
As a result of thinking through all of this more this week, I took out my machete and chopped my way through about 20 feet of weeds and brambles to a space behind our house with woods, paths, a creek and plenty of critters (well…at least evidence of them). All it took was making the decision to do it then about 20 minutes of swash-buckling the path…which was actually quite fun. Not only did this open up my girls’ world in a literal sense, but on many other levels as well. All they seem to talk about now is wanting to get on their mud boots to explore and run freely every chance they get. With their birthday’s coming up they are both trying to figure out how they could incorporate this new world of theirs into their party plans. This is all good…real good.
So where are your kids? Where do they spend most of their time…doing what?
Be honest and let your answers inform you on what you need to be more intentional about doing or not doing. Then just make a decision to do it and do it. And then relax…and let your kids play. They’ll be fine…better than fine, and you will see you will be too.