"Nature Deficit Disorder" is a term coined by Richard Louv ( in his groundbreaking book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv has brought to national attention the sobering data showing that kids are so plugged into television and video games that they've lost their connection to the natural world. This disconnect has lead to not only poor physical fitness among our youth, but also long-term mental and spiritual health problems. A multitude of troubles result from the dramatic decrease in the time spent out-of-doors and include a wide range of behavioral and health issues, including childhood obesity, attention deficit disorder and depression. ( Emerging research reveals that, in addition to reducing the risks associated with not spending time outdoors, the positive impacts of spending time in nature may have significantly greater impacts on a child's physical, cognitive, and social development than imagined. This research and information has sparked a worldwide movement to introduce more kids to the wonders of nature through various planned and spontaneous activities.

Research has revealed proven mental and physical benefits to children who have a connection with nature. These benefits include:

  • Spending time outdoors lessens the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder/ADHD. (American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 2007,
  • Children who play outside have lower stress levels, become fitter and leaner, develop strong immune systems, have more active imaginations, play more creatively, and have greater respect for themselves, for others, and for the environment. Children who experience school grounds with diverse natural settings are more physically active, more aware of nutrition, and more civil to one another. (Bell & Dyment, 2006)
  • Time in nature improves a child's academic performance, concentration, balance, coordination and self-esteem. (Burdette & Whitacre, 2007).
  • When children engage in activities such as playing outdoors, spending time with a mentor or close relative in nature, fishing, hiking, camping, hunting, and scouting, they are more likely to develop a long-term environmental ethic. (Chawla, 2006).
  • Kids in environmental education classes have higher scores in traditional subject and skill areas on standard measures of academic achievement (reading, writing, math, science, social studies). (Lieberman & Hoody (1998).
  • Free unstructured time outdoors has unique health benefits to children - time in nature improves a child's academic performance, concentration, balance, coordination, and self esteem. ((Burdette & Whitaker. (2007).
  • Children who spend time in nature are more likely to carry a love of the outdoors into their adult years. (Wells & Lekies, (2006).

If nature deficit continues, we may face a death of environmental leaders at a time when we face unprecedented environmental challenges including habitat loss and global warming!


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