Kids & Company Blog

Welcome Autumn by Enjoying Nature

Nature1 The list of potential disorders and neuroses our kids can develop keeps growing longer. It seems increasingly unlikely that any child will have a “normal” childhood, whatever “normal” means these days.

Over the past decade, more children are getting diagnosed with attention deficit disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, and mood disorders like depression and anxiety at younger and younger ages, but what is the root cause of all these afflictions?

The Call of the Wild

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently held a panel discussion with three pediatricians and Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. They talked about how more and more urban children are spending their childhoods disconnected from the natural environment. A growing body of research suggests that a child’s behavior and moods are deeply improved by having regular, sustained access to nature.

Harvard professor E.O. Wilson remarked that human brains are hardwired to be attracted to nature, to natural beauty. If we remove nature from our lives, we cut out part of our humanity. If we experience nature deprivation from an early age, then we may change the way the neural pathways in our brain are formed.

“We are actually raising a generation of kids with disabilities,” Mr. Louv said in his interview with the AAP. “Disabilities of the senses.”

There is some research suggesting that the absence of nature has a negative impact on our modern lives, and there’s growing evidence that the presence of nature helps us feel calmer and more connected to the earth and ourselves.

Take a Walk in the Woods

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As the fall weather arrives, make sure to spend time with your children— not just outdoors, but out in nature. Hike through the woods, camp near a lake, or go apple picking one weekend. Climb trees and touch the dirt with your fingers.

As parents, we have been told that the natural world is a major source of injury and infection. This is true, but the benefit of being in nature now seems to outweigh the scratches, scrapes, and even broken bones. Scientific evidence shows that being immersed in a natural environment, even camping in the wilderness for just a few days, has lasting effects on children’s independence and self-esteem.

Further Reading

For a compilation of ongoing research into the interplay between children and nature, visit the Children and Nature Network here. They have an overview of current research evidence from September 2009 available here.

For more information about Richard Louv, visit the sites for his award-winning book Last Child in the Woods here or his follow-up book The Nature Principle here.

Organize a family camping trip to enjoy the fall colors by visiting one of our Great Canadian Parks!