Nature Deficit Disorder

Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” (NDD) in his book “Last Child in the Woods.” Because of this, it’s become a rather accepted and well-known term, although it’s not a recognized medical disorder. Some, however, believe that it should be.

What Is NDD?

NDD refers to the lack of exposure to the natural world that is experienced by so many modern children in developed nations. The results of this nature deficiency are said to range from the development of ADHD to behavior problems.

Nature as Therapy

It’s been said that the use of drugs and pharmaceuticals in kids could be greatly reduced if nature were used as a form of therapy instead. Reports abound of children who had behavior and learning problems that greatly improved after the child spent time connecting with nature. Also, children who are obese may find that they lose a great deal of weight when they get outside and get active.

Using nature as therapy is not necessarily scientific in approach. Really, just getting kids out into the natural world to play is where it starts. Some kids, though, aren’t sure how to engage in free play, or may not have access to a natural setting. Not to worry – here are some ideas from those who are advocates of using nature as therapy for kids.

  • Build a tree house, like you or your neighbors might have done as kids. If you don’t want to build a tree house, consider a playhouse on the ground. Your kids can help you build it, and enjoy all kinds of time there.
  • Interact with wildlife as a sightseer or, as Louv suggests, help turtles cross busy roads safely when they are undergoing their annual migration. Put up a bird feeder and look up and identify the various birds that visit.
  • Explore space with binoculars and/or a telescope from your front porch.
  • Find a vacant lot and discover bits of nature in the soil, among the plants, and the plants themselves. Nature is amazingly resilient, setting up shop the moment an area is abandoned.
  • Start a rooftop or balcony garden, growing fruits and vegetables and potted trees. You can create a mini forest this way, even including a fountain or water feature.

Maybe NDD is a result of our technology getting ahead of our biological make-up. Maybe NDD comes from deviating from our “wiring” as nature-dwellers. Regardless of the reasons, getting our kids back to nature is a growing movement.

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