Does Your Child Have Nature Deficit Disorder?


child in nature2

It is a phrase coined by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods stating that human beings, especially children,
are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems.  Richard Louv explains, “Nature-deficit disorder is not meant to be a medical diagnosis but rather to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from the natural world.”


1.)  Parental Fears–  Parents are keeping children indoors in order to keep them safe from danger. Richard Louv believes we may be protecting children to such an extent that it has become a problem and disrupts the child’s ability to connect to nature. The parent’s growing fear of “stranger danger” that is heavily fueled by the media, keeps children indoors and on the computer rather than outdoors exploring.

2.)  Restricted Access to Natural Areas –  Loss of natural surroundings in a child’s neighborhood and city has increased. Many parks and nature preserves have restricted access and “do not walk off the trail” signs. Environmentalists and educators add to the restriction telling children “look don’t touch”.

3.)  The Lure of the Screen–  Increased draw to spend time inside comes along with the advent of the computer, video games, iPad, iPhone, and 24 hour television programming for kids.  The average American child spends 44 hours a week with electronic media.


  • attention and depression disorders
  • anxiety disorders
  • childhood obesity
  • myopia- Lack of exposure to bright light among children contributes to myopia due to lack of resulting chemical signals to prevent elongation of the eye during the growth phase.
  • less restful sleep


  • Calms, focuses and excites the senses – reduces attention deficit symptoms
  • Increases the ability to cope with stress and adversity
  • Fosters creativity and calms children who struggle with information overload
  • Increased immune system function- see hygiene hypothesis
  • Lower levels of behavioral conduct disorders
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Improved attention span and concentration

NOTE:  Children with ADHD or ADD showed significantly reduced symptoms following after-school or weekend activities in green outdoor settings (natural areas such as parks, farms, or a green backyard) compared to activities in other settings, including built outdoor settings (parking lots, downtown areas) or indoor settings.
Analysis was based on parents’ reports of their children’s behavior during the hour after the activity, specifically:

  • Ability to focus on unappealing tasks
  • Ability to complete tasks
  • Ability to listen and follow directions
  • Ability to resist distractions


1.)  Be deliberate about scheduling an hour of outdoor time everyday for unstructured play, even if it’s just your backyard.  Try to keep some of your yard naturally unlanscaped.

2.)  Try to let your child roam freely and let go of some of the fears the media creates. This is so difficult to do, find your own creative ways to allow your child the feeling of freedom and independence.

3.)  Plan experiences with nature- Schedule vacations to national and state parks and eco- resorts, hiking, camping, mountain biking with a focus on the natural surroundings and animals that live in various locations rather than commercialized experiences.

EXTRA CREDIT:  Work with your child on one of the 200 citizen science projects available worldwide.

Last Child in the Woods, Louv


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