50 Ways to Fight Nature Deficit Disorder This Fall and Winter

Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

You can’t go very far these days without hearing about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but have you heard of Nature-Deficit Disorder?

In his best-selling book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit DisorderRichard Louv explores research linking children’s health and well-being to direct exposure to nature.

The reality is, nowadays, our children are better able to identify jungle and zoo animals than the animals that reside in their own backyard.

In this age of screens, our nation’s children are not getting out there and this has a direct impact on their health and happiness. And, lest you think nature only benefits children, Louv shares the benefits for adults in his book, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age.

After reading Louv’s books, you won’t want to come inside. Louv uses research to show the many benefits of time spent in nature, including:

  • Increased health and happiness
  • Increased attention, academic success, and creativity
  • Decreased obesity
  • Decreased rates of anxiety and depression
  • Increased concern and care for the natural world

I don’t know who originally said this, but one of my favorite sayings is: Children cannot bounce off the walls when there are none. As the mom to three very active youngsters, I notice a significant difference in our children’s happiness and behavior when we have had plenty of outdoor time. Heck, I notice a difference in my own happiness when I’ve been outdoors. I wish there was a way to make this book required reading for all parents because I feel quite certain that we would see a significant improvement in the happiness and health of our nation’s children.

Today, I’m sharing 50 ways that you can fight Nature-Deficit Disorder in your family, and then I’d love to hear your family’s favorite fall and winter outdoor activities.

50 Ways to Fight Nature Deficit Disorder This Fall and Winter

  1. Resolve to get out there more. Make a family challenge to spend a certain amount of time outdoors daily, whether it is for twenty minutes or two hours.
  2. Take time to enjoy the simplest of outdoor pleasures. Can you make an acorn cap or a blade of grass whistle? How many times can you make a stone skip? Is there anything more satisfying than the crunch of a fresh pine cone underfoot? When was the last time you did cartwheels across the lawn? Can you make a crown of flowers? Take time to smell the roses!
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
  3. Gather natural materials and make a fairy house… or a hobbit hole. Save any leftover for hobbit-inspired crafting.
  4. Stargaze. See if you can see a shooting star–or a bat–in the night sky!
  5. Grab a backpack, fill it with goodies for your little explorer, and go for a hike.
  6. Have a picnic.
  7. Get artsy! There’s nothing quite like painting al fresco.
  8. Care for the Earth by planting a tree or picking up garbage.
  9. Get a dog. Nothing forces you to get out there more than that puppy dog stare.
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
  10. Create an obstacle course in your own backyard.
  11. Grab a soccer ball or baseball and head out in the backyard for a game.
  12. Catch a leaf before it hits the ground–it’s good luck!
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
  13. Pitch a tent and go camping.
  14. Learn about the trees in your own backyard. If you have maple trees, you have plenty of time to think about maple sugaring this winter.
  15. Invest in some child-sized rakes and let your children help you with yard work. Don’t forget to save one leaf pile for leaping!
  16. Get lost! Practice those map skills by allowing your child to take the lead. Explore the world of letterboxing and geocaching.
  17. Visit a natural playground.
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
  18. Enjoy a nature scavenger hunt! Be sure to save any leaves you collect for some fun nature crafts.
  19. Does your child love a good mystery? Grab a field guide and learn the art of animal tracking!
  20. Fly a kite.
  21. Have you ever heard of a mud kitchen? Let your children cook up some delicious mud pies.
  22. Visit an outdoor museum, sculpture park, or botanical garden.
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
  23. Explore the world of birding. There is so much to be learned from a bird identification guide and some binoculars.
  24. When you are done observing the birds, why not use a pine cone to make a bird feeder, or engage in some imaginative bird art inspired by John James Audubon?
  25. Grab your nets and see if you can catch butterflies, frogs, minnows, or salamanders.
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
  26. Visit your local farm and hit up the orchard or pumpkin patch. Get lost in a corn maze and then head home to cook up some pumpkin goodness.
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
  27. Set your children free, armed with cameras, and see what they capture!
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley's kiddos
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley’s kiddos
  28. Get out there and use sidewalk chalk before the snow comes. Play hopscotch, or four square, or hangman!
  29. Make your own bubble juice and blow some gigantic bubbles.
  30. Make a scarecrow or a pumpkin person.
  31. Visit a National Park.
  32. Read a book. There’s nothing quite like reading a book in the great outdoors.
  33. Climb a tree.
  34. When you come down, grab a stick. Did you know that sticks are in the National Toy Hall of Fame?
  35. Go for a bike ride… either on the roads or on the trails.
  36. Study Native Americans and see if you can use that stick to make tools, weapons, or a fire.
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
  37. Speaking of fires, hit up the fire pit and enjoy some s’mores.
  38. While you’re outside at night, remember that you’re never too old for flashlight tag!
  39. Go hiking during a full moon.
  40. Visit your favorite Nature Conservation Center.
  41. Build a fort! Fort building helps children to learn cooperation, STEM skills, and encourages that imagination.
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
  42. When those snowflakes start to fall, make sure to get out there and catch the first one on your tongue.
  43. Make snow ice cream!
  44. Discuss the science of snowflakes.
  45. Sharpen those skates and find a pond.
  46. Build a snowman.
  47. Invest in some kid snowshoes and be the first to make tracks after a fresh snow.
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
    Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
  48. Teach those kids how to ski–cross-country or downhill!
  49. Hit up those sledding hills and end the day with a cup of hot cocoa.
  50. If winter has you in the doldrums, it’s a great time to research fantastic summer nature camps.

What is your favorite outdoor family activity? Share here!

Cait is a school psychologist, mom to three amazing children, and an unexpected homeschooler. She loves nature, good books, board games, strong coffee, and dancing in her kitchen. You can read about all of these things and more at My Little Poppies. Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast. She is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and G+.