Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Do you have Nature Deficit Disorder?
I found this little guy when ripping out my zucchini plants this morning. I quickly called the kids over to take a look, because toads are a rarity in my yard. "It's so dry here," I thought as a wondered why I have only found a couple throughout the nine years that I've lived in this house.
Each time the kids reached out to poke him, he'd take a little hop, and my one-year-old would squeal happily. Poke. Hop. Squeal. Poke. Hop. Squeal. I sat on the bench in the potager and thought about how when I was a kid, I'd see toads all the time. My brother and I would collect cute baby toads from a nearby pond, fresh with their new legs, and create a habitat for them with a bucket full of dirt, water, grass and leaves.
Funny thing is, maybe my yard is dry (I've got a lot of dry shade in the back, and dry full sun in the front), but it's likely that it's not the frogs that are gone. It was me! I grew up, went to school, worked and travelled a lot, and was out of nature pretty much all the time.
I don't want this to happen to my kids. I'd love them to persue environmentally-based careers (in fact, my daughter is already on the right track; she wants to be a "dog babysitter" when she grows up). After reading Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principal, I learned that parental "stranger danger" type fears, TV, and lack of access to natural areas can cause what he has termed "nature deficit disorder." He claims this can cause a number of behavioral problems. I see hints of it myself with my own kids. They are more engaged in play when it's nature-based, and seem to have a longer attention span during outdoor activities compared with indoor play. Even indoor play involving outdoor items (story stones, art projects using leaves and sticks) outrank many of their store-bought toys.
Since having kids and starting my part-time landscape design business, I've been outside more than ever. And I've come to love the slow pace of a non-scheduled day at home, in the yard. While I used to delight over sushi lunches and after work escapades to Ann Taylor, now just a poke, hop, and squeal makes me smile.