Children’s behavior can suffer from an absence of outdoor space, and it’s a problem being brought to light during the coronavirus pandemic. Nature-Deficit Disorder suggests that spending less time in nature may contribute to behavioral changes in children.
What Is Nature-Deficit Disorder?
Nature-Deficit Disorder was first coined by journalist Richard Louv in 2005. It is a nonmedical condition that attributes behavioral changes in children to less time spent outdoors.
“Ironically, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, as tragic as it is, has dramatically increased public awareness of the deep human need for nature connection, and is adding a greater sense of urgency to the movement to connect children, families, and communities to nature,” Louv told The New York Times.
Louv found that a lack of nature exposure could cause decreased use of the senses, attention difficulties, increased rates of physical and emotional illnesses, and a lack of imagination. The pandemic is proving what multiple studies have researched before — kids need nature.
The Benefit of the Outdoors
“Research shows us frequent experiences in nature with a caring mentor develops healthier, happier, smarter, stronger children and lays the foundation for stewardship values throughout life,” Erin Saunders the Education Programs Director for Thorne Nature Experience told Parentology.
For parents constantly worried about their kids’ screen time, spending more time outdoors is a direct remedy. Unstructured outdoor spaces give kids the opportunity to tap into their creativity. Rather than sitting and facing a screen, kids must use the objects around them. Using objects like trees, rocks, and natural inclines, kids can form their own imaginative games.
Some schools have even formed nature-centered curriculums to offer education to young children. Nature preschools use it to support both developmental skills and conservation values in early education.
Incorporating Nature Into Daily Routines
Ming Kuo, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Illinois who studies urban greening, suggested multiple ways to incorporate nature into one’s daily life. She told the New York Times, “A hike in a forest preserve, or fishing or gardening, obviously, but also smaller doses we might not think of: walking in a tree-lined neighborhood, a glimpse of a green view through the window, the scent of roses. Every bit helps.”
Dr. Louise Chawla, Ph.D., a professor emerita at the University of Colorado Boulder, stressed that you don’t need a park to interact with nature. Something as small as taking coloring supplies or a book outside for a break helps bring exposure to nature.
“Children are moving all the time, but they also show sustained fascination,” Dr. Chawla said to the New York Times. “Even a tiny bit of green space can be a place to slow down, watch an insect, move some dirt around.”