Have you heard of "nature deficit disorder"?

I hadn’t heard it until recently and then it seemed to be popping up all over the place for me. The term piqued my interest and I decided to do a bit of reading.

I pretty quickly came to discover that “nature deficit disorder” was a term coined by a gentleman named Richard Louv in a book that he wrote in 2005 called “Last child in the woods”. Louv states that the term is not meant to be a medical diagnosis but a metaphor for the problems that stem from our increasing removal from nature. These problems he suggests may include some behavioural and emotional issues, especially in children.

I haven’t read Louv’s books yet, but they are certainly on my reading list (it is a long one so it could be a while before I get to him!). Regardless, the very idea that we and our children could be suffering in some way because we are spending too little time with nature certainly fits with my personal feelings about the world.

Another reason that I think it’s important for children to connect nature is that it’s hard to have an interest in or to value something if you have limited experience with it. One of the reasons that I am passionate about engaging children with science is that I believe that well rounded scientists, ones who understand the damage that humans have done to the earth and who have a sincere desire to reverse it, may do just that. Of course for that to happen, our children need to see the natural environment as something worth preserving.

One in 10 children today play outside once a week or less, according to Planet Ark (Australia). I figure that the “play outside” issue has to exclude school lunch times (surely), but even still as a person who spent every afternoon of my primary school life in the park across the road from my house or in someone’s backyard, I find this statistic rather alarming.

In our increasingly busy lives, with so many things to fit in (I’m absolutely no exception to this) how do we ensure that we make time to just be outside, appreciating what is right there around us? While pondering this question, I came across the incredible Amie at Soundsations QLD. Amie runs nature play programs for toddlers and pre-schoolers and has a range of beautiful products that are designed to support children to engage with nature. Of all of the things that Amie had on offer in her store, what drew me in was her Nature Play Prompt Cards. This is a set of 30 cards that have a range of different prompts on them, designed to get children interacting with the natural world around them.

Amie very kindly exchanged a set of these cards with me for one of our Chemistry-in-Action kits, and we began to try them out this weekend. I have been having a battle with Lily of late who would like to spend more time with a screen than I will allow and loudly proclaims “I’m bored”, if I am not at hand with a science experiment or other ready-made activity for her to do. It’s been worrying me that she hasn’t either wanted or been able to entertain herself. This weekend (while Ethan who still has a nap during the day) slept and my husband was busy, I handed Lily the pack of prompts and told her that I had things to do in the garden (really fun stuff like hanging out laundry and cleaning up cat poo 😫). I knew she wouldn’t want to help with either of those tasks.

I got on with my jobs and watched as Lily read through the different cards. I was careful not to comment or interfere. Then there was movement. A variety of items were collected from the shed and on our deck and fairly quickly an obstacle course materialised! At this point my services were required to time her as she raced from beginning to end. She did this several times trying to improve her initial time and then when she was tired she wandered back over to the pile of cards to have another look.

Lily on her homemade balance beam

Next she was holding a card and peering around the garden at different things. Soon, I discovered she had been on a colour hunt. She had found an item for each of the colours on one of the cards and was keen for me to take a photo. With that done, she drifted back to her obstacle course until it was time to head off to a birthday party.

Nature play prompt colour hunt

I have to say, that I am really looking forward to seeing which card she selects next!

I’m so pleased to have come across these cards. They have served two really pressing needs for me, the first was to make sure that I focussed on getting myself and my kids outdoors as much as possible, especially leading into the colder weather, and also, these fairly open ended prompts have already helped Lily to become more independent in making her own fun rather than relying on screens or me for ideas.

So, with that, I highly recommend that you check out Soundsations QLD and grab a set of these fabulous cards for yourself.

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