Nature Deficit Disorder

Nature Deficit Disorder

Since I saw and loved this trailer for movie called Mother Nature’s Child, on Lola’s blog, I’ve been preoccupied with some of the ideas explored even in this short segment.

While not all of these situations could be applied to our life, I think that it is interesting to consider the significance of outside time and time in nature.  First I would draw a distinction between simply outside as opposed to in nature.  While time on a playground or playing sports can be wonderful and enriching, I think that being fully in nature, with no boundaries, rules or constructs is a very different thing.

One of the many blessings of connecting to other homeschooling families has been the opportunity to share outside time.  Our group has regular nature walks, even in the very cold of winter, and our Friday get together is now outside too.  It’s a chance for all of us to blow away the cobwebs and embrace the outside.  Even if the weather is not fabulous the temptation of connection and some relaxing time is too good to miss!

Something that never fails to fascinate and delight me is how ‘at home’ the children are in natural environments.  Their imaginations are boundless, they are never bored or stuck for ideas.  They work co-operatively (most of the time) on projects and often seem to be playing about 3 different games at once in order to accommodate the dream of each participant.  In the woods things are suddenly very simple.

Now we are not a screen free family, we enjoy some (selective) tv and movies as well as some computer time.  These tend to diminish as the spring and summer warm up but are invaluable during the longs days of winter.  But as we emerge, like the new leaves, into this season it is the outside that calls to us the most.  That is where I see my boys at their happiest and most natural.

The pictures above were taken on a recent get together, the day was very cold with a bitter wind but the children really didn’t seem to notice!  They played their games, warming themselves with their activity.  After a couple of hours (and frankly when the grown ups could take no more of the cold) my clever friend Steph produced a lovely story to round off our time together.  The children happily sat along a tree looking so perfectly content, like little pinecones all in a row.

I don’t mean to suggest that there are never any challenges during our outside time.  They fall over and hurt themselves, there are conflicts that sometimes need a Mummy to help resolve, I am forever chasing after Neirin and trying to prevent his imminent demise.  But those are all things I have to do inside too.

What is different is the effect upon the children, they come home more relaxed and peaceful; their bodies and minds are calmer even though they have been active and busy.  As someone says in the video above we are a culture focused on information, saturated with it even.  This preoccupation with filling children up, packing them as full of information as possible is one of the reasons I wanted to homeschool.  As he says connection is so much more important.  This I believe wholeheartedly.

If there is a message that really needs to get through when it comes to children it is ‘let them play’ or even better ‘let them play outside’.  The lessons they learn are not the kind learned in a classroom, it is the kind that creeps in through the bones.  They learn, I hope, to be comfortable in nature and to see it as a refuge, a home, a provider and a playground.  Perhaps when we become a culture that sees nature in this way we will finally begin to care for it properly.

For my part I look forward to cultivating a life outside, I think we will be happier for it.

8 thoughts on “Nature Deficit Disorder

  1. YES! Well written Emma, this is exactly how we feel about the woods too. Soothing, restorative and so enchanting for children and adults alike. See you among the trees soon!

  2. Very inspirational post Em, and very true. I grew up on 300 acres of land, did not go to preschool, and had very little “organized” activity. I now value that my parents let me watch very little TV and play no video games, since my siblings and I instead had to rely on our imaginations. Indeed, by “cultivating a life outside,” as you say, I think we also cultivate a better life inside (inside ourselves, that is). I love the idea of less information, and more connection. Well done!

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