Time to Connect with Mother Nature
Spring has finally arrived, but this March has gone both in and out like a lion, knocking out the power and trapping people indoors for days at a time.
We might not realize it, but all this inside time may be having drastic effects of our children—and ourselves.
In 2005, journalist Richard Louv published a book called “Last Child in the Woods,” in which he coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder.” Louv claims that people, especially children, spending less and less time outside leads to behavioral problems. While medical manuals for mental disorders do not recognize nature deficit disorder, Louv builds a strong case for what happens to people that spend less and less time outside.
Louv explains that parents fear sending their children outside unsupervised or lack access to nature. The abundance of electronic devices and screens are addictive enough that kids often choose them over outdoor time. He states that nature deficit disorder is a phrase to describe “the human costs of alienation from the natural world,” rather than a medical diagnosis.
Playing outdoors helps kids take risks, which helps them have more confidence in themselves, make independent decisions and become resilient problem solvers and creative thinkers. Playing in nature has been proven to make kids physically and emotionally stronger, as well as smarter.
It’s not just children that are impacted by the lack of nature. Adults also spend much more time indoors than they ever have before.
British professor Dr. Ross Cameron, from Sheffield University’s department of landscape says, “I guess it’s a symptom of current lifestyle. We’re so clued into modern technology and things that we’re less observant about the world around us and we’re more likely to learn about wildlife ironically from a David Attenborough programme than maybe from a walk in the woods.”
While I love watching “Planet Earth,” I am also aware of my own lack of time spent outdoors.
As a kid, it seemed like I lived outside. I grew up on a quiet cul-de-sac where all my neighbors were grandparents who loved seeing young children running through their yards again. We had free rein of the street. There were bike trails through the woods nearby and a wide, undeveloped meadow that we played in constantly.
My siblings and I were rarely supervised. I hope to provide the same sort of childhood for my own children.
Children, after all are our future. They are the ones who will be stewards of the earth when we are gone. If they aren’t given opportunities to play outside and build personal connections with nature, what will motivate them to make the changes needed to protect our planet?
Like most stay at home moms, I have a side hustle. I am not selling leggings, Usborne books or essential oils though. I’m not really cut out for direct sales positions. I wanted to find something that utilizes my background in education and that I also feel passionately about.
I was lucky to stumble on the perfect opportunity through a Facebook post about Tinkergarten. Tinkergarten is a company that creates educational and fun play experiences for families in nature. Families meet in local green spaces where they engage in nature based activities under the guidance of a trained leader.
Tinkergarten wants to help bring families back to nature and teach parents how to facilitate independent, outdoor play for their children.
Despite so much of my own time spent outdoors as a child, I find it challenging to work outdoor time into our busy lives. I want my kids to be outside, but sometimes even the thought of slathering them with sunscreen or bundling them into warm layers exhausts me. I know in a few years that they’ll be old enough to send outside unsupervised, but if I don’t build in the love of nature now, will they lose interest?
Tinkergarten is the perfect opportunity to get me outside again and to teach my girls that it is okay to get messy. I want us all to fall in love with nature, to be able to recognize signs of changing seasons, identify wildlife and appreciate how important it is to take care of our environment.
While I’m thrilled about my new venture and truly believe in Tinkergarten’s mission to get families outside again, I know that not every area has a Tinkergarten leader. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get yourself or your family outside regularly.
Louv recommends putting “nature on the calendar.” This could be as simple as taking a walk around a local park or dining al fresco. Use social media to your advantage by finding local nature groups, especially those that are family oriented and can lead to regular nature adventures.
“Create nature where you live,” Louv urges. “We can transform our own yards, alleys and neighborhoods by planting native plants that can help bring back butterfly and bird migration routes. We can create new natural habitats in and around our homes, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, cities and suburbs, so that, even in inner cities, our children can grow up in nature—no with it, but in it.”
Visit your local nature center or find events at your local park. Combine fitness with the outdoors through taking regular runs or bike rides or even outdoor yoga classes. Explore classes and camps that take place outside. Push for more outdoor time and environmental education in schools.
Louv believes that we need a major cultural change to avoid nature deficit disorder and promote environmental stewardship. That might seem overwhelming, but remember, it’s easy to start small.
Along with his book, Louv created the Children & Nature Network, which aims to reconnect families and nature.
Since the publication of the book, Louv says positive change is happening. There are more family nature clubs, regional campaigns and government programs to encourage families to connect with nature more.
Let your kids play in the mud or in rain puddles. Send them outside to explore. Treat the outdoors as the most valuable classroom your kids can be in.
I’m looking forward to a spring and summer spent outdoors, in a beautiful, local park and am hopeful that by encouraging a love for nature now, my children will rise to be the next generation of stewards of the earth.