Do Your Kids Suffer From Nature Deficit Disorder?

I read this article about the decline in visitors to our national parks. It got me thinking about my own children. Park officials say the decline in visitors to our national parks since 1999 is not only due to rising gas prices, but also to over-scheduled children who lack interest in being outside. Now that I think about it, it's true. This generation of kids do not know what to do with themselves if they are "bored." Parents seem to freak out if they hear that "b" word. Oh no! MUST PROVIDE CONSTANT ACTIVITY FOR OFFSPRING OR CHILDREN WILL GROW UP TO HATE ME.

What is up? Do your kids have nature deficit disorder? Is this because we cannot allow our children to play outside without the fear that they'll be nabbed from our own backyard? Is it because there are 3 gazillion stations on tv that are more appetizing to our kids than making mud pies? Is it because we, as adults, suffer from a lack of nature appreciation?

In our family I require our children to be outside at least once a day (even in the winter if it's not too cold.) Sure, the kids think I'm the meanest mom on the block. But hey - there's a whole world to explore out there! Get your butts out there and do something, right? Once they are outside they have fun throwing rocks, climbing the trees, playing hide & seek, swinging, making obstacle courses, collecting leaves, digging holes - I could go on and on. Sometimes I provide structured play outside, but most of the time they don't need me. God's playground provides plenty of ideas!

From the time we got married my husband confidently announced that he would not have mushy-brained kids who could not pull themselves away from a screen. He wanted our kids to spend their free time outside. When we were dating, I gave him the false impression that I could hang with him in all of his extreme sports outdoor adventures. Now, he knows the real me. I'd much rather get something accomplished indoors. But, I have to admit....the man is right. Being outside is good for me. It's good for all of us. Thus the purchase of our ugly, but adorable old pop-up camper. There's nothing better to get your kids to be active outdoors than to remove the tv, computer, and video games. We have been camping together as a family now for about 6 years, and we still love it.

We haven't ventured to any national parks yet, but I'm sure we will. And when we do, our kids will have fun darn it! How do you overcome nature deficit disorder in your family?

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