What do you remember most from your childhood?
~backyard tree houses
~barefeet hardened by a summer of use
~chewing on sour grass in the field next door
~iceplant paintings on the neighbor's fence
~even the daily fear of a black widow spider hiding in the goat's alfalfa
But much has changed for children growing up in this generation... Richard Louv in his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, cites these statistics:
*American children now spend 27% of their time in front of electronic media. *The average American child spends less than 1% of their time outside. *"Unstructured" outside play amounts to only about 30 minutes per week on average for each child (that's barely 4 minutes per day). *American 2 year-olds average 2.6 hours of television viewing per day.
Now, I'm usually a bit wary of labels--(nature-deficit disorder)--so it was with a skeptical outlook that I started reading Louv's book.
His thesis is that "direct exposure to nature is essential for a child's healthy physical and emotional development."
But, as I thought about Louv’s premise, I would add...
Not only is exposure to nature crucial to healthy childhood development--direct exposure to nature gives children a window into the heart and majesty of God.
Bugs, birds, animals, grass, trees, mountains, floods, wind, rainbows, streams, rocks... They all show us who God is.
God says He reveals Himself through creation.
For a variety of reasons, today’s children may be missing out on that experience--only learning about nature indirectly. Direct contact is often very limited.
It takes care-free, unstructured time and imaginative, exploratory play for a child to connect with nature in a meaningful way or to even really notice God's intricate design. Louv writes, "a primary experience...that which we can see, feel, taste, hear or smell for ourselves" is essential.
Things have changed since I was 8. I do know that.
But when our children read that a man who follows God is like a tree planted by streams of water (Psalm 1) or that the grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever (1 Peter 1:24)... Will they have a real reference point for these images?
About a year ago, we made it our goal to send our children outside to play for at least an hour every day. It doesn't always happen, but that is the goal. And while I don't subscribe to everything in Louv's book, it does make me feel a little better about telling the kiddos to--
"Go out and play!"
It’s time to be purposeful. It's time to be intentional.
Take a rain walk. Collect rocks. Raise a butterfly. Make a birdhouse. Chart the moon. Build a firepit. Eat outside. Look at the stars. Dig in the mud.
Yes—it will probably mean more laundry—but there’s always a cost for what is meaningful.
How do you help your children see evidence of God in His creation?