Children with Nature Deficit Disorder (UK)

The publishing of an article about the worrying absence of Nature in the life of children raised in the UK is not only a warning relevant in Europe.


Back to the roots (Pugu Hills)


In an Article on the internet some worrying facts are listed about the childhood of children in the United Kingdom. For instance:

"the area where children are allowed to range unsupervised around their homes has shrunk by 90% since the 1970s."

"Traffic, the lure of video screens and parental anxieties are conspiring to keep children indoors"

The loss of outdoor experience is the loss of learning opportunities of basic skills both mentally and physically. Children are required to build up their bodies to become healthy hunters and gatherers which evolutionary heritage we still did not lose in those few thousand years we diverted from the lifestyle for which we have been built over million of years, however hard we try to cover it up.

"The natural world doesn't come with an instruction leaflet, so it teaches you to use your creative imagination.

"When you build a den with your mates when you're nine years old, you learn teamwork - you disagree with each other, you have arguments, you resolve them, you work together again - it's like a team-building course, only you did it when you were nine."

"the growing dissociation of children from the natural world and internment in the "cotton wool culture" of indoor parental guidance impairs their capacity to learn through experience."

The article continues that evidence shows:

  • children learn more and behave better when lessons are conducted outdoors
  • symptoms of children diagnosed with ADHD improve when they are exposed to nature
  • children say their happiness depends more on having things to do outdoors than owning technology.

The article considers the role government policy and organisations in the UK can play to reconnect children with the natural world again and how to inspire them to get outdoors.

In Dar es Salaam the environment is very different from the UK but the conclusions could be quite similar and the severity of "Nature Deficit Disorder" may be comparable. Most surprising, while the opportunities to return to our natural world where we came from are still plenty in Tanzania compared to the United Kingdom. Not only the expatriate youth experiencing internment of some sort on the peninsula but also the new generation of Tanzanian urban youth is losing its roots which were once in rural Tanzania with lots of "Nature" at hand reach.

The alienation from Nature of the children has its origin when it started to affect their parents some time back. The expatriate parents have the excuse that Nature in Tanzania is not familiar and some hesitation to run into the bush with the whole family, makes sense with all the unknowns. But surprisingly Tanzania Urban Generation is often more scarred about Nature. We think the article which you can read here provides some foods for thought for parents and teachers alike.

If you are interested in the subject and the opportunities at Pugu Hills please have a look at the video summarising 20 years of entertaining Dar es Salaam's urban kids at our Centre.