Do your kids have Nature-Deficit Disorder?

Do your kids have Nature-Deficit Disorder?

As a pre-teen, I used to walk a couple blocks from my suburban house to enter a square-block-sized patch of prairie. This undeveloped paradise held flitting birds, rushing wind and critters. I hid amongst the tall grasses, tramping along faint trails imagining I was Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. I could literally walk up an old, bent oak tree and play pirate for hours. One particularly exciting day, my brother stepped in a yellowjacket nest and was stung multiple times. But eventually the bulldozers and developers came, and there went wonderland.

Do your kids have Nature-Deficit Disorder?

Richard Louv is calling attention to the lack of nature in modern childhood with his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv claims kids live a "denatured childhood" these days -- plugged into television, music and computers -- stranded on an island of manicured lawns, hard concrete and antiseptic, organized play.

Louv ties this nature-deficit to the attention deficit and anxiety disorders, depression and obesity prevalent in today's youth. But he does not leave you in despair. Louv prompts us to reacquaint children with nature, whether we run through an open meadow, cast a reel, hike a trail, crouch to catch a frog or camp under the stars. We just need to make the time to plant ourselves in natural space and nature will deliver the rest.

My kids don't have a patch of prairie around the corner, but I was lucky to marry a like-minded outdoor enthusiast. Our vacations and weekend jaunts involve hiking, camping and skipping stones. Parents, listen to Louv's call for a "nature-child reunion" -- it's a call possibly more beautiful than a loon's. 

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