Do Your Kids Suffer From Nature Deficit Disorder?

Compare your childhood to that of your kids'. Now consider how much time you spent outside and how much time they do. The difference is likely quite large thanks to video games, longer workdays and more.

One study found that of 8,950 parents, only 51 percent went outside with their children once a week. Not to mention, nearly half the preschoolers in the same study had no parent-supervised outside opportunities at all.

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This growing trend was coined as nature deficit disorder, by Richard Louv, bestselling author of Last Child in the Woods. He says:

"Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically. The polarity of the relationship has reversed. Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment—but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading."

The power is in your hands to make the change for your kids. "Of all the adults who care for preschoolers, parents (or guardians) likely have the greatest influence on their behaviors because children spend the most time in their care," according to the authors of the previously mentioned study.

Nature deficit disorder doesn't just affect children's connection with nature; scientists and pediatricians believe it's contributed to a variety of childhood epidemics. Here's what you can do. 

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Consequence: Obesity

In the last 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents, according to the CDC. As this number increases, young kids are more likely to suffer from high cholesterol, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease: issues commonly seen in adults. While nature deficit disorder is just one of many things that have lead to this epidemic, it's an important one that you can control.

Solution

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education says that kids only need an hour of outdoor time a day to reap the long-term benefits. During the colder months, when there's less light in the evening, make sure their school provides time outside during the day for recess. Or make sure your kid's after school program offers some outdoor time.

As the summer gets closer, your little ones can play outside while you prep dinner. On the weekends, plan for at least one outdoor activity with the family. Take a hike or a walk through the woods; even just playing at the local park is enough.

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