Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nature Deficit Disorder* and Summer Time

Nature Deficit Disorder
(* word coined by author Richard Louv who wrote the book
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder)

Not so long ago the biggest worry Parents had over the summer was to keep kids from getting too much sun on their heads. Summer was for lazing in the sun exploring the interesting things around the house and looking in nook and cranies or if you were like most kids the exploration happened at your grandparents house where all semblance of rules or regulations were thrown to the wind. Meals times were for special foods that you craved for. Bolt! Clap! Thunder.... Well I was day dreaming there for a while or maybe it was the sound from DDs computer game. What parents worry about today is that kids these days are having less and less of unstructured time. No spontaneous games or role playing so much so that kids left in the playground to play by themselves or not able to do so, they need rules and regulations. Well I won't go on and on, this topic is HOT as it is.

What as parents can we do keep to bring this deficit down? My favorite season to work on it is during the summer. There is no excuse of bad weather to keep cooped indoors in front of the many electronic equipments we can't live without. Though DD suggested the idea of summer camp, I begged my mother to come and stay with us for the summer so DDs can have a relaxing, carefree time without worrying about too many planned activities. What this has done to their time is,

They wake up at their own covenience, eat a slow breakfast, take long walks, catch some butterflies, with a fish net they fished from the basement, figure out if the butterfly will survive if it is kept in a closed box and should the holes for them to breathe be big or small. This amazingly keeps them occupied for hours together which no video game has the power to do. Rarely have I heard the the oh so familiar whine "I am bored". Eat a relaxing lunch, laze around in the afternoon and then some bicycling in the evening followed by catching lightning bugs as the sun goes down, do some research about the creatures living under rocks, though all of the activities do not happen on the same day it keeps them occupied for most of the day. Being outdoors so much makes them notice things, I was delighted when I heard DD analyze the different colors of purple found in nature, as luck would have it purple is her favorite color and even if I buy flower bulbs of differnt colors and shades they are the only ones that bloom and recently she happened to see a brinjal flower. But this fun is different then the ones we had, we roamed around the whole village just stepping into the house during meal times.

A crow cawing on a bright sunny morning and usually happens when I am driving out to work, brings on a longing for those summer days of my childhood in my grandparents' house and a guilt that DDs don't get to have that experience of swimming in the rivers, swimming in wells, fishing in the ponds, climbing on mango trees and being bitten by ants. Sometimes the trees we climbed on and the wells we jumped into belonged to people who did not want us there and we got chased by these angry people with a stick in hand which was a game in itself. I have no recollection of ever being caught by these angry people though.

With my mom here, DH's aunt visiting us for this week and DD's friend here during the day for 2 weeks we have a full house and it is such a joy and this is what I miss the most about India the PEOPLE.

I was listening to the Diane Rehm show on WAMU when I heard author Richard Louv talk about his book Last Child in the Woods and it struck a chord but that was a long time ago but what brought about this bout of introspection was the news of Lady Bird Johnson and reading and about her tireless work for conservation and love of wild flowers.

Sandeepa has posed the question if DD missed not going to camp? Her answer was "I have never been to a camp". But DD's friend answered the question to her mom last summer. She wanted to stay home and not go to camp which required keeping a schedule. unScheduled unHurried is what makes them happy is my final conclusion

Also posted on my blog Daily Musings.


Asha said...

YUP! Summer is here at 90+F means Video games inside and loads of NDD!!:D
My kids step out only after 5pm when it's still humid but not sunny.I sent them to day camps when they were young.Although they liked it,as they got older,they didn't want to go.So home it is.Of course I am at home,it's not a problem.
Camps are not really necessary for everyone but it definitely give them a sense of leadership and a tool to better cope with other kids and life in general.
Nobody can beat grandma's love and care absolutely! We spent the whole Summer holiday climbing up the tree,eating all kinds of fruits in India.My kids have never climbed a tree ever but they can teach me all the science and Tech things which I am not familiar with.That's life I guess!:)
I bet DD is having lot more fun than her friends,although I would beg her to leave the Butterflies alone!!:D

Praba said...

Hi Indo -

Another interesting one - to send to camps or not..Interesting to read your thoughts. I agree with you on keeping it unstructured, laze around, explore the unexplored fronts on home, backyard etc..

The problem I've here with this system is the close to 3 month break. We didn't get that long a break growing up in India - it was always a short and sweet 6 to 8 week summer holidays. We all thrived in an unstructured summer.. But here, don't you guys think 3 months is a bit too much?

Here's my experience: My five yr old is starting kindergarten this fall. Her preschool ended on May 19th. This was the first real summer break in some sense. I kept her at home for 60 days - until July 9th. In India, where I grew up - school would close on April 19th and reopen on around first/second week of June.

Whole of June, we did lot of the things you mentioned...Lazing around, waking up late, going on nature walks etc.. Starting the 9th of July, I started her on a half-a-day camp for 3 weeks - an art, science and math combo. Will be until end of July. Then, we leave for India on August 3rd where she will get to see her grandparents and enjoy the rest of the summer with them.

I feel this way, it offers some balance of structure and unstructured time. This year it worked. Next yr, don't know if it will be the same. I think I will continue to keep her at home for one and a half to two months and for 3/4 weeks, will send her to some camp - nothing too much but little bit here and there - arts/science combo. Let's see how she does this year! But this is what I've planned for my kids going forward. It just differs for all of us as to what we feel comfortable with.

I am curious to hear what others think! thank you!

Sandeepa said...

I had already said what I wanted on your blog Indo.

The reason I am really really sad of the day my daughter will/might start summer camp (ok she is in day care and even now they have some kind of summer stuff) is because she WILL never know what a real summer vacation is. It will always be the 2-3 weeks vacation for her.
And she will NOT get to sleep in late and then read as many books she wants, the best part I liked about any vacation.

Tharini said...

beautiful. I love the time they are sending right now. It sounds soooo right! Don't have any of this experience yet....but it was nice reading it from the light of your experience.

the mad momma said...

lovely. exactly my belief. wrote something on it some time back. http://themadmomma.blogspot.com/2007/07/discipline-vs-regimentation.html

Kay said...

What a lovely way to spend the summer holidays!