found that kids between ages 8 and 18 spend a daily average of 6.5
hours with TVs, computers, video games, cell phones and iPods. No
wonder Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin
Books), contends that our children spend too much time indoors with
high-tech electronics and too little time outdoors with nature.
Louv argues that our DNA almost dictates
needs for unstructured exposures to the sights, sounds, smells and the
feel of the natural world. Unlike watching TV, where just a few of our
senses are stirred, romping in the woods stimulates all of the senses
Louv coined the term “nature deficit
disorder” and claims that children deprived of exposure to nature are
likely to develop obesity and diabetes. He states that people who
exercise outdoors feel less anxious and more energized than those who
work out indoors. He also cites a study that found patients with a
window overlooking a natural scene had shortened hospitalizations.
Many parents believe their kids must be
kept busy with challenging and structured education. In other words,
learn to use the computer as soon as possible in order to get into a
prestigious Ivy League school.
The idea of unstructured playtime
outdoors may seem old-fashioned, yet Louv believes that such activity
stimulates creative thinking, while helping to burn calories at the
same time. It isn’t necessary to travel to a national park; visiting a
clump of trees, a small pond or a little stream will suffice. Louv
suggests leaving a section of the back yard unattended so it will
provide some natural area in which the kids can roam.
He acknowledges the fear many parents
share regarding possible harm to their children during unsupervised
outdoor playing, yet he also believes that “stranger danger” has become
magnified out of proportion. Around 300 B.C., Aristotle wrote, “In all
things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” When we live our
lives under virtual house arrest, we miss experiencing much of the
awe-inspiring beauty the world has to offer.