“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
Several years ago, I read a great book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv. In the book, Louv states the case that children today, for various reasons, spend too little time outside. As a result, kids are developing what he calls Nature Deficit Disorder.
“Our society is teaching young people to avoid direct experience in nature. That lesson is delivered in schools, families, even organizations devoted to the outdoors, and codified into the legal and regulatory structures of many of our communities. Our institutions, urban/suburban design, and cultural attitudes unconsciously associate nature with doom—while disassociating the outdoors from joy and solitude.”
As parents, we are good at signing our kids up for sports teams, or ballet, or piano lessons. We take time to go over spelling words, and math problems, and we allow our children to play “educational games” on the computer.
But how good are we at giving our kids time and space to play outside? Why is it that we so quickly fill up our schedules with activity after activity, but we find it almost impossible to spend an afternoon or evening piddling in the dirt, watching the clouds, or catching fireflies?
This week, the weather was beautiful and we spent lots of time outside, planting a garden, reading stories, and playing games. On one particular afternoon, Mabry spent almost four hours just playing make believe in the yard with her baby dolls and the dog. As I was working in the yard, she was pushing her babies in the swing, climbing a tree, or playing in the sandbox. At one point, I looked over at her and noticed she had grabbed a pie dish from inside and was making her very own pie!
Warning: This pie, though delectable looking, is not for eating. I think it is safe to say, that not even the dog would want to nibble on this beauty.
Mabry’s backyard pie consisted of sand for crust, dirt for the filling, and flowers, rocks, sticks, and a shell for the decoration.
It just goes to show that the joy of a pie does not necessarily come from eating it.
“Progress does not have to be patented to be worthwhile. Progress can also be measured by our interactions with nature and its preservation. Can we teach children to look at a flower and see all the things it represents: beauty, the health of an ecosystem, and the potential for healing? ”
― Richard Louv