Nature Deficit Disorder

The winter months here in the Northwest can make hard to get our family bundled up and outside. I long for the day we live on a piece of land where I can stay snuggled up next to the fire whilst my kids run wild and all I have to do is set snacks outside when they need to refuel.

But before we get there, we have to model our outdoor spirits today.

How can I expect my kids to even want to explore the outdoors if I prefer the warmth of my home now while they’re still young and need accompaniment (since we live on a corner lot in a large neighborhood with a small outdoor area).

There’s something internal and instinctual I feel calling me almost every day. The desire and yearning to be in the fresh air, amongst the green trees and rushing creeks and under the cloudless sky on a clear, crisp morning.

I preferred to be outside as a kid. Didn’t you?

As human beings we weren’t built to stay indoors all day, every day. We started as hunters and gatherers and moved to ages of agriculture until recently when the majority of our “work” for most means sitting in front of a computer.

And it makes me so sad. I long to be outside way more often than I am.

About a year ago I was happy to be exposed to the book Last Child in the Woods, Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. The title says it all and I highly recommend it.

I’ve always tried to make exploring the outdoors essential to our kids’ upbringing, but this book terrified me to the extent that I’d almost like to build a glass house in the woods so my kids are immersed in nature 100% of the day and night. Seriously.

So yes, I have to bundle up and brave the cold at times so my kids can throw rocks, explore the undergrowth and feel the excitement of finding and identifying wildlife. Or I have to walk miles and miles on hikes with my five-year-old son so he can experience wilderness beyond our neighborhood parks.

Right now, I’m simply grateful we live in Oregon where nature is plentiful.

And children all feel that innate pull in my opinion, like we all do, that our bodies were made to spend the majority of our daily hours outdoors.

Maybe that’s also why kids in places like Germany are happier and healthier than most U.S. kids, according to this article, thanks in part due to the time they have to spend in the wild at an early age, fending for themselves.

Being outside just makes sense.

And it’s just one more reason we Christian Unschool. And since I have limited knowledge of the outdoors, we actually enrolled our son in a weekly homeschool Trackers Earth program where he’s learning survival skills and has fallen in love with archery, of all sports. We recently met with the creators/owners of this fabulous program and all agree there need to be more opportunities like theirs for young children in today’s world.

Because I don’t think God made nature as beautiful as He did so we could ignore it indoors all day.

Does it make sense to you too? If it does, I encourage you to bundle up and head outside. You and your family will find freedom and amazement among God’s creation.

And I personally find myself more grateful and take it less for granted our modern ability to keep our homes toasty warm on these cold, winter days.

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