Neither “Natural Deficit Disorder” or “Vitamin N” are actual medical terms but rather two phrases coined by Richard Louv. The author of “Last Child in the Woods,” “The Nature Principle”, and “Vitamin N,” and co-founder of the “Children and Nature Network,” Louv claims our culture is experiencing a crisis of nature withdrawal. Today’s kids spend over 50 hours a week on an electronic device and 90% of their time indoors. But it’s not just the vilified electronic device to blame for the nature deficit, there is also poor urban design, a culture of fear, and the emphasis on organized sports. Our rural and small town locale mitigate the impact of the “concrete jungle” and the fear of neighborhood violence, but for some families, it still takes an effort to find a safe, natural environment for play. However, the rewards are worth the effort:
One in five children has or has had a serious mental disorder at some point. (National Institute of Mental Health)
Kids who spend time outside in green spaces feel calmer and less stressed, experience more positive emotions, and boost social and emotional resiliency. (Children and Nature Network)
Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases that impact physical health, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors for heart disease. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Green spaces and natural environments promote a wider variety in active play (running, jumping, climbing, lifting) and more opportunities for light to moderate activity, which some children prefer. (Children and Nature Network)
We’ve all heard how important sports are for teaching teamwork and lifelong fitness skills. However, organized sports are highly structured and supervised. Unstructured play is just as important to a developing brain. Free play encourages exploration and experimentation. Free play in nature engages all five senses, challenges thinking skills (imagination and creativity), and employs our deepest human emotions: compassion, curiosity, and wonder.
Get outside with your kids. Your behavior and habits have the most significant impact on your children’s current and future habits. And don’t forget about self-care; adults need Vitamin N, too! Nature is integral to the physical, mental and emotional well-being of all people of all ages. Then there is the magical part of taking a child outdoors: experiencing the wonder of discovery all over again.
Fresh Summer Pasta Salad
Serves 8 Ingredients
1 package whole wheat rotini or bowtie pasta
½ pound fresh asparagus
8 ounces sugar snap peas
1 Tbs. olive oil or vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tsp. lemon zest
½ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped basil
½ Tsp. salt
¼ Tsp. black pepper
Boil pasta in a large pot for 3-5 minutes; add asparagus and peas and cook for 3 more minutes until pasta and veggies are tender. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in skillet and cook onion until barely golden (10-12 minutes). Add lemon juice and lemon zest and cook until fragrant (2-3 more minutes).
Toss onion mixture, parmesan cheese, and basil into the pasta and vegetables; season with salt and black pepper.
Easy Fresh Mint Tea Recipe
What You’ll Need
2 cups water
About 15 fresh mint leaves
(Optional) Sugar or honey, to taste (start with about 1 tsp per cup and add more to taste desired)
(Optional) 2 lemon wheels, or lemon juice to taste
How to Make It
Bring the water to a rolling boil.
Remove from heat and add mint leaves.
Steep for three to five minutes, depending on desired strength.
Add sweetener as desired.
(Optional) Pour over ice.
(Optional) Garnish with lemon wheels or add lemon juice to taste.
Serve hot in mugs or iced in tall glasses.