Avoiding Nature Deficit Disorder

Now that camp is over for the summer, one of the things that strikes me is how quiet it is around this place. Summer brings the sounds and sights of kids having a blast outdoors- swimming, playing, running, chasing, and using “outdoor voices.” They are doing what kids do best, and it’s a joy to watch.

One of the things I loved best about growing up is all the time spent playing outside.  We built forts, dug holes, waded in creeks, caught critters, and wandered through trails in the woods.  As an adult I still have a strong appreciation for what God has created and love the smell of the woods and fields.  I also find that as adult I spend a great deal of time in front of my computer, whether working or for entertainment.  “Back in the day,” computers and cell phones weren’t common, the internet didn’t exist, TV had 10 channels to choose from, and there was only one kind of video game system.  (Yes campers, it really is true!) Not so these days.  Though technology advances are extremely helpful in many ways, they keep people indoors and often replace “real” experiences.

A phrase that has been coined in the last few years to describe this is from a book by Richard Louv, and he calls it “nature deficit disorder.”  Camp is the ideal place for kids to overcome this phenomenon.  As technology-based as this generation of kids is, we rarely hear a complaint from campers about a week or two spent “unplugged.” In fact, many times the opposite is true where campers say they have enjoyed their time at camp in part because there weren’t the usual electronic distractions, and they have been able to play outside.

So what can we as parents do to help our kids avoid nature deficit disorder?  How about just trading one thing for another, at least a few hours a week?  Head outside with your family for a walk instead of turning on the TV, for example.  Just making it a point to be aware of how much –or how little- time your family spends outdoors can be all it takes to jump start intentional time spent there.  God has created an amazing, wonderful, beautiful world.  Don’t miss it!

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