The Ten Actions Parents Can Take to Prevent Nature Deficit Disorder
1. Be a role model!
Remember, children will get excited about something when you are genuinely excited about it, too! Model the behavior you want your children to emulate. Demonstrate your own curiosity about nature sharing what you love to do in the outdoors with your kids. You can model respect for nature through simple everyday activities like recycling and not littering. Sharing your natural interests is the best motivation a child can have to participate.
2. Plan a monthly or weekly surprise outdoor adventure!
Every Sunday, or once a month, plan a surprise outdoor trip with your kids. You could go to your local river, beach, forest, nature preserve, or city park! Planning surprise family fun time builds kids’ excitement for the next adventure, and helps demonstrate how you value your time with them.
3. Organize a monthly outing with your child’s school.
Be the parent who plans the monthly outing with families in your child’s class. Exploring the great outdoors can be easier and closer than you think. Trips can include Pebble Beach, the Everglades, Blue Ridge Mountains, swamps, state parks, or fly fishing. Do some research on beautiful areas near your school. Build community with your child’s class and instill in them a love of nature.
4. Follow the AAP’s guidelines and limit TV and video games to 1-2 hours a day!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1-2 hours of quality programming per day. Just think of how much more time your child will have for unstructured, imagination-fueled play time outside!
5. Take a daily or weekly walk together as a family after dinner.
In the evenings after dinner, go for a nice family stroll with your kids. A walk around the neighborhood, saying hello to neighbors, pointing out flowers or birds, and catching up on the days’ events is a great way to spend quality time with your kids outside and get a little exercise together.
6. Register your child for an outdoor summer camp.
The American Camp Association has hundreds of great outdoor camps that your child can attend across the country or in your region. Give them a dose of the outdoors, a chance to make new friends, and fall in love with nature during summer vacation this year. Some accredited camps cost as little as $75 per week.
7. Go camping!
State and national parks are being used less and less every year. Grab your tent, sleeping bag, and camp stove and teach your child how to camp! Camping in national parks is a great cost-effective family vacation that can fun and educational. Go out and enjoy local parks or take a road trip and discover national treasure around the country.
8. Plant a garden.
Follow in the footsteps of First Lady Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden and plant a vegetable or herb garden in your backyard, at your child’s school, or take part in an urban community garden plot. School or home food gardens teach kids how to be smart about nature, nutrition, and make better food choices. Take advantage of whatever small amount of outdoor space to which you have access and experiment with a vegetable, herb, or plant garden. It’s a great way to learn about nature alongside your children and get your hands dirty in rich soil (1).
9. Buy a field guide.
Field guides make every walk in the park an educational experience! A good quality field or nature guide helps you name and identify what you find outside. Guides can teach you about the favorite foods of the animals or the flowering and fruiting times of plants. That walk around the block can become an educational experience for you and your children (2).
10. Link up with one of your great local or national organizations!
Children and Nature Network
Wildlife Conservation Society
Earth Explore Adventures
National Audubon Society
Into the Outside
Ecological Literacy Program
The Society for Amateur Scientists
National Environmental Directory
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.