‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ Is Really a Thing
Children’s behavior may suffer from lack of access to outdoor space
Posted on 21.07.2020
LaToya Jordan and her family have no green space by their Brooklyn apartment. So she, like many other New Yorkers, relies on the city’s playgrounds and parks to give her two children, ages 2 and 8, some exposure to nature.
The outbreak of the coronavirus in New York City took away that access to green space when playgrounds closed across the city, and the city’s parks, like Prospect Park in Brooklyn, became too crowded for her children to properly social distance.
Jordan, 42, has observed a distinct change in her children’s well-being after having little to no access to green space. “Both of them are more moody and cranky,” she said. “My 8-year-old is so jealous of her friends who have backyards right now.”
The change in behavior has been so noticeable that she and her husband are considering renting a house with a yard in Brooklyn for a week.
Jordan found that despite the cancellation of all in-person activities — from Girl Scouts to piano lessons to gymnastics — what her children missed the most was just the freedom of playing outside with friends.
Numerous studies have shown the mental and physical benefits of spending time in nature, but for some people, it took a pandemic and stay-at-home orders for that desire to spend more time outdoors to feel like a necessity. Experts hope that desire for nature will remain once people physically return to their busy schedules.
“Ironically, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, as tragic as it is, has dramatically increased public awareness of the deep human need for nature connection, and is adding a greater sense of urgency to the movement to connect children, families and communities to nature,” said Richard Louv, a journalist and the author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”
In an interview, he recalled the excitement that many people experienced when they saw nature through windows in cities with shelter-in-place orders.
“As we sequestered at home, many of us were fascinated by the apparent return of wild animals to our cities and neighborhoods. Some wildlife did come deeper into cities. But many of these animals were already there, hiding in plain sight.”
Meg St-Esprit McKivigan
The New York Times
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