Fight NDD, get your kids outside


By Bob McDonald, Quirks & Quarks


A recent report out of the UK emphasizes, once again, that children are suffering from NDD, Nature Deficit Disorder, which affects their general well being. So get your kids out of the house this weekend.


The report by the National Trust,  a preservation organization in the UK, echoes the NDD concept first put forward by Richard Louv in his 2006 book, Last Child In The Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. 


In it, he describes Nature Deficit Disorder as, "alienation from nature," causing "diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses." 


Statistics in the UK, which are similar to those from North America, show that children are spending twice as much time indoors as previous generations, usually sedentary, in front of television or computer screens. And this is having a negative effect on their health, leading to things ranging from obesity, through nutrition, to mental health problems.


And we can't blame technology. Children are being held indoors more frequently by fearful parents who are less willing to allow their kids to run free in the woods, walk to school or even play in the local neighbourhood.  


Just look at the lineup of cars outside an elementary school in the morning, or how many adults are watching over their kids in a playground.


As a result, children are not only less healthy, they are less in touch with the natural world around them. Watching a nature documentary on television or doing a Google search on ants while sitting in a chair is not the same educational experience as lying face down in the dirt and watching the bugs crawl in and out of the ground.


The remarkable thing is that the cost of solving this problem in very low. All they need to do is be allowed to climb trees, chase each other up woodland trails, splash in creeks - in other words, play the way children naturally play with each other, not just in highly structured, overly competitive, adult-supervised, organized sport.


Studies have shown that children exposed to nature find more things to do, which makes them more physically fit and reduces attention deficit disorder. They learn to co-operate with each other when finding their way through a forest or crossing a stream. They naturally interact when one child discovers an interesting plant or bug, which is a great lesson in social skills.


Many children today see the world through glass; the glass screen of a computer or television, the glass windows of their parent's car.  Sure, there are many virtual reality games available where you can get a pretty good workout playing golf, tennis or other physical activities, while in your living room guiding your avatar in front of a large screen television.


But here's a low-cost alternative. Try introducing your children to an even more immersive experience that includes fully interactive, three dimensional ultra-high resolution images, 360 degree surround sound, smells and new adventures around every corner.   


It's called reality.


So, as the weather turns warmer, tear your children away from their computers, tear yourself away as well, and take a walk in the nearest piece of nature you can find.  Let them run like wild animals, stick their hands in a creek, turn over some rocks to see what creepy crawlie lives under it, smell the dirt, and have a really good look around.


If you're worried about them picking up germs from the forest floor, exposure to a few germs actually boosts your immune system.


So fight NDD and take a walk in the woods. Both you and your kids will be better off for it.