This fall, I noticed - no, felt - something was very off in our family.
I couldn’t name it. But it was there.
Something had shifted in our family:
The kids were more restless.
My husband and I were, too.
Was it the big move we had just made?
Was it the natural growing pains of a young family?
Was it that our kids were getting older?
One day, after endless meltdowns and hard late-night conversation, it all became clear:
We’re not spending enough time outside - not individually and certainly not as a family.
There is a phenomenon called “nature-deficit disorder” that is recorded in research, and it describes a myriad of behavioral problems that stem from children’s increasing alienation from the natural world.
When I was a writing lecturer, I even met Richard Louv, the author who coined this phrase.
But, still, our family had begun the inevitable slide indoors:
Family walks had ceased.
After-school outdoor play had lessened.
Trips to the park felt like too much work.
It was easier.
It was more comfortable.
It required far less creativity.
But that single decision had pretty serious consequences for our family:
More screen time.
Weaker mental health.
So, we have started to turn the tide, and here’s what we’re learning:
1. Kids do what you do. If you embrace nature, they will, too.
2. The outdoors are cheap - and, most often, free. Your mental space frees itself from the strain of preparation and accumulating more things.
3. Nature makes kids tired and, quite often, more compliant. They use their energy positively to create games and exercise their muscles.
4. Outside play yields connection. There is no screen or chore to distract, and you can focus on one another against a gently stimulating backdrop.
I’m not saying being outdoors will solve all of your family’s problems, but let my family be a testament:
Kids don’t need things to be happy.
They simply need you...and a little wilderness to explore.
And, I swear, that happiness will find you, too.
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