Get Into Nature!

tree climbing

My two youngest granddaughters climbing around on a tree that blew down in a storm on our property.


I heard a commercial on the radio the other day about getting your kids back into nature. On the commercial, the son came out of his room and when he spoke to the father, he sounded like a video game. The daughter came out of her room and same thing…her voice was all distorted as well. I don’t remember exactly who paid for the commercial, but the gist of it was get your kids unplugged and get out into nature.

Richard Louv, in his book “Last Child in the Woods“, coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” or NDD for short.  It’s become a fairly well known term and although NDD is not a medical term, some believe that it should be. Why? What exactly is NDD?

NDD refers to the lack of modern children, in developed countries, being exposed to nature. Some believe that this lack of nature, is the root cause of the development of some behavior problems such as ADD and ADHD

It’s being said that if kids got out into nature and played, or that nature was used as a form of therapy, the use of drugs and pharmaceuticals in kids could be greatly reduced. There are numerous reports of children who had behavior and learning problems, that greatly improved after the child spent time outside “connecting” with nature.

Have you noticed lately that we are becoming a nation with more and more obese children? Children who are obese at earlier and earlier ages? Maybe if todays children got outside and played the way children of the ’50’s, ’60’s, and even the ’70’s and ’80’s played, they would lose a great deal of that weight.

It’s not rocket science! Just get kids outside into the natural world to play. Sadly though, some kids, don’t know how to go outside and play. Take away their electronic gadgets and they don’t know what to do with themselves.t Others, just may not have access to the great outdoors. Not to worry – here are some ideas to get you started.

Gardening with Grandad

Introduce kids to gardening. This is a picture of my husband, and two of my granddaughters planting our little patch of garden last weekend. They were barefoot (the girls not my husband), and having a blast!

  • Build a tree house, or a playhouse on the ground. Let your kids help you build it, and enjoy all kinds of time there. You can find some here.
  • Interact with wildlife as a sightseer or, as Louv suggests, help turtles cross busy roads safely when they are undergoing their annual migration.
  • Put up a bird feeder and then look up and identify the various birds that visit.
  • Explore space with binoculars and/or a telescope from your front porch. That first summer we moved to the country, my then college age daughter and I would go out after dark and just lay on the picnic table and look at the sky, because it seemed like there were so many more than in the sky in the city.

Live in the city? No problem!

  • Find a vacant lot and discover bits of nature in the soil, among the plants, and the plants themselves. Nature is amazingly resilient, setting up shop the moment an area is abandoned.
  • Start a rooftop or balcony garden, growing fruits and vegetables and potted trees. You can create a mini forest this way, even including a fountain or water feature. You can find a good how to book here.
  • Go camping! It’s a great way to connect with nature. We used to camp all the time when my kids were young. You can easily rent any equipment you might not have.

Maybe NDD is a result of our technology getting ahead of our biological make-up. Maybe NDD comes from deviating from our “wiring” as nature-dwellers. Regardless of the reasons, getting our kids back to nature is a growing movement. A movement that can certainly make them and us healthier!


  1. Marian says:

    I completely agree. Kids spend way too much time inside. And when they’re outside, they aren’t allowed to get dirty! My kids run around barefoot all the time, we walk to our local park and we come home filthy. Then we take baths! It’s so good for them and I always notice a huge difference when we get home.

    • Mary says:

      Marian, when my grandchildren get to my house the first thing to come off are the shoes. When they spend the night, the next morning they are out the door before breakfast. By the time they come inside in the evening for dinner, they are filthy, tired and hungry. A bath is always needed and sometimes they can even stay up for a campfire and s’mores. 😉

  2. Cathy Sykora says:

    I agree that you see less and less children playing outdoors. Growing up, I have so many fond memories of playing outdoors and couldn’t imagine my children or grandchildren not having the opportunity to have those same experiences. My grandchildren are always playing outdoors, whether it is at the park or in the back yard. Plus it is a great outlet for all of that never-ending energy they have!

    • Mary says:

      I have fond memories of playing outside too, Cathy. Some of the best times of my young life were experienced outside. And children really do sleep much better after being out in the fresh air!

  3. Nicole @ Refreshed Life Nutrition says:

    Great article! i find getting out in nature so healing. I am lucky to live in a city with some truly beautiful parks close by. I honestly think I’d go nuts if I couldn’t easily get to them everyday. Thanks for all the great suggestions, you’ve inspired me to fill up my bird feeder!

    • Mary says:

      Nicole, I love watching the birds that come to my feeder. What’s really funny is that the little chickadees actually stay and talk to me as I fill the feeder.

      I agree that nature is healing. Love walking barefoot through the grass.

  4. Johanna says:

    I totally agree with this! Let’s avoid NDD and get these kids outside! We allow for too much social media and digital games. Thanks for this post, I’ll be sharing it with my healthy community.

    • Mary says:

      When my kids were young, my son would want to spend way too much time on the “Nintendo”. The rule of the house was, he could play for an hour and then out the door to find something to do. He built a go cart, a tree house and they would play capture the flag.

  5. Sue Johnson says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with taking away their electronics and not knowing what to do. As a kid growing up in the city, didn’t get to go to the park much, but did play outside in front of the house everyday with the neighborhood kids. We didn’t have much to play with, but we got creative. I remember we used to play a game called “beat the bus”, one of the bus routes would end by going down our block, so whenever we saw the bus coming down the street, we would yell “beat the bus!” we would drop whatever we were doing and race the bus to the end of the block. And there was a bus like every 10-15 minutes…lol

    • Mary says:

      Like you Sue, I grew up in the city also. I didn’t live near a park, but we were outside playing or riding our bikes all day long. Loved going to my Uncle’s house and playing in the woods with my cousins. Great memories!

  6. Cynthia says:

    Yes! Love this post. I grew up like those kids always being outside. We were ALWAYS outside, so was my Dad. I currently live in uptown Phoenix and we have great parks and bike paths, small mountains to climb, plenty of stuff to do outside in the nice weather. Thanks for such great ideas.

  7. Mary says:

    I will be showing my hubby’s age, LOL, but he said that when he was a kid, he and his cousin would take a lunch and get on their bikes and go on long bike hikes. They’d be gone all day and come back just in time for dinner.

    I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with my kids or grandkids doing something like that now, but that was the 50’s.

  8. Patti & Peter Rugg says:

    I love this blog for so many reasons. Interacting and having fun with our grandchildren bring lifetime special memories. It is amazing how much fun we had with our grandparents without electronics. NDD makes a lot of sense to me. Nature requires us to think, look and hear everything around you….instead of just looking straight ahead at the electronics. This could very much be the reason we have so many car accidents with people thinking they can text while they are driving.

    • Mary says:

      I couldn’t agree more about the driving and texting. And don’t even get me started on the violence in the video games these days.

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