“Having watched Discovery Channel and worked with computer simulations that severely
compress both time and space, children are typically disappointed when they first approach a
pond or stream: the fish aren’t jumping, the frogs aren’t croaking, the deer aren’t drinking, the
otters aren’t playing, and the raccoons (not to mention bears) aren’t fishing. Their electronic
experiences have led them to expect to see these things happening—all at once and with no effort
on their part.”
The increasing growth in technology, and with almost one in ten children having a
personal mobile or a tab with them. These children prefer to work, and play inside with minimal
or zero contact or connection with the environment and world around them.This has led children
to develop what Richard Louv termed the ‘Natural Deficit Disorder’, a condition in which
children are increasingly disconnected from their natural world and prefer to spend more and
more time inside.
Complications associated with Natural Deficit Disorder
Although Natural Deficit Disorder has not been recognised as a medical condition by the
Medical coding scheme of ICD-10, DSM-V and the American Psychological Association. Few
research studies in the field of Environmental Psychology have suggested the link between
Natural Deficit Disorder and emerging pattern of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,
Attention-Deficit Disorder, Obesity, Depression, Emotional Problems, Stress and Cardiovascular
Disease (Warber et al.,2015).
Ever wondered why is there a rise in Natural Deficit Disorder! The following are few reasons contributing to rise in Natural Deficit Disorder:
❖ Urbanisation and Increased need/ preference to live in urbanised areas.
❖ Fewer natural spaces
❖ Car-focused culture and traffic
❖ Lack of hands-on experience during learning process
❖ Forbidding children from interaction with others and exploring outside places
❖ More screen time
❖ Technology taking over and blurring the line between human, animal and nature
❖ Less time for leisure activity
❖ More preference to indulge in indoor activities (simulated games/ virtual reality games)
❖ Increased pressure from work and school
❖ Reduced ecological unconsciousness- lack of innate ecological connection
Vitamin N (Nature), how will that help?
Research indicates exposure to nature improves the following:
❖ Improved Cognitive Functioning: Natural Environment can be cognitively restorative,
and improves the cognitive functioning of the child by increasing their attention span,
concentration and improving critical thinking.
❖ Improved Sensory Capabilities: As the child uses all his/her sensory modalities during
play or exploration in the natural environment, it automatically improves and heightens
the child’s use of their senses.
❖ Promoting Self-Awareness and Well-being: few hours with nature helps an individual
to understand their own self better,increases their self-confidence, self-esteem, changes
their view of world and improves their overall well-being.
❖ Improved emotional and social health: Helps in developing bond with the natural
environment and sensitize with other beings. Increases their positive emotions towards
self and places and improves their social connectedness thus, facilitating better
relationship with others and also increasing their emotional quotient.
❖ Increase relaxation: Exposure to natural environment increases the child’s ability to
relax both physically and mentally, thus making the child feel calm and at peace.
❖ Creativity: Improves and increases the child’s chance for creative or divergent thinking
as the child by engaging in natural environment opens himself or herself to new and
unique fascinating exploration.
❖ Reduced risk for mental illness: Reduce the risk for behavioural problems,
hyperactivity, drug and alcohol addiction, technology addiction, lowers the risk for
anxiety, depression and lowers the level of stress as individual feel usually calm and
relaxed after their exposure with nature.
❖ Reduce risk for physical illness: Exploring the nature and playing outside involves
certain kind of physical movement from the child thus reducing the child’s risk for
obesity and cardiovascular illness.
❖ Improved Naturalistic Intelligence: Gardner’s Multiple Theory of Intelligence spoke
about different types of intelligence, one of it being Naturalist Intelligence where an
individual has heightened sensory awareness to things outside, are able to recognise the
pattern of things in the environment and categorise things in nature.
Vitamin N exposure for an holistic development:
Here are few tips for the parents to promote Natural Environment exposure:
❖ Nature Walk: Promote your child to take a daily nature walk during their breaks, or after
their time from school.
❖ No Reel plays but Real Plays: Encourage your children to go outside and play with
others on the space available rather than promoting indoor games.
❖ Be Mindful: During their nature walk or time outside, ask them to observe things around
using all their senses and journal it or provide them with a space to talk about the same.
❖ Accumulate: Encourage the child to gather unique, fascinating things from the nature
and make a collection of it, like different types of leaves, or seeds or stones etc.,
❖ Be a watcher!: Teach the child about a concept like birds or clouds and ask them to be a
bird watcher or a cloud watcher.
❖ Kinesthetic play: Encourage the child to touch and feel the different things around in
nature and make an interesting art/ craft out of those things.
❖ Insectopedia: During weekends encourage the child to find any insects of their choice
(butterfly, earthworm etc.,) and track them.
❖ Join a Nature club: Find members of similar interest and join a nature club so the child
gets an opportunity to learn and share with members of similar interest.
❖ Field trips: Schools or few communities do promote field trip, let all your fears down
and allow your child to take an active part in it.
❖ Camps and Trekking: On a regular basis, take your child out for outdoor camps and
trekking so that they have an hands-on exposure with nature.
❖ Wilderness therapy: An alternative form of treatment in which individuals are taken to
camps and are permitted to engage in number of survival tasks.
❖ Improve your Vitamin N: Most children learn behaviour from their parents and
significant others, so you indulging yourself in natural environment will serve as a model
for them to follow the same.
Promote holistic development of your children by improving their exposure to Vitamin
N. Holistic development is not a luxury but a necessity! So, together let’s ensure that our
child is not the last child in woods.