You may have heard of attention deficit disorder (ADD), but have you ever heard of “nature-deficit disorder?”
I hadn’t heard of it until I read Richard Louv’s seminal work, Last Child in the Woods. This worldwide best-selling book shows how our cities and schools are producing a generation of kids who suffer from a host of ill effects due to their lack of contact with genuine, unbridled nature. He believes that the condition of growing up without access to nature causes enough problems in kids to warrant its own name hence the term “nature-deficit disorder.”
For Louv, outdoor spaces help develop kids’ imaginations and allows them to run wild, which aids self-confidence and physical fitness.
Think about the difference in creativity we can apply to indoor and outdoor “toys.” A doll is just a doll. A toy truck is just a toy truck. But a tree stump, on the other hand, can be a podium for a president’s speech, a launch pad for a Mars Rover, or a diving board for the Olympics.
This potential for nature to stretch our imaginative horizons is known as elasticity. Nature is the primary elastic environment for our kids to explore, discover, and grow in.
Nowadays, there just aren’t enough spaces for kids to chop wood or build treehouses without adults trying to stop them.
According to Louv, kids experience a decrease in creativity, risk-taking, and mental wellness due to spending time sequestered inside. Coincidentally, creativity, risk-taking, and mental well-being are all necessary traits to be an innovator, entrepreneur, and leader in our modern society.
Louv argues that kids become video and computer game addicts because they aren’t getting the type of unstructured stimulation they need from the outdoors.
But finding nature in Beijing is difficult, right? Actually, you’d be surprised.
This city is surrounded by beautiful mountains and natural parks that can make an easy day trip for you and your little ones. I’d suggest hikes like Yunmengshan National Forest Park or the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Exploring parks like Chaoyang Park and Ritan Park can also help cure “nature-deficit disorder.”
Whatever you decide, get outside this summer! It could end up saving your kid’s creative muscles.
About the Writer
Kassandra Lee is a published poet, arts organizer, and education entrepreneur. In her free time she enjoys talking about education and bicycling around the eclectic hutong neighborhoods of Beijing in search of surprises.
Photo: Kassandra Lee