Can flip flops cure nature deficit disorder?
As the Easter holidays begin the newspapers are full of stories about nature deficit disorder, yet rather then getting out, active and back to nature I’m traipsing an argumentative trio around a shoe shop! Yet in this soleful scene we’re pleased to find hope and inspiration..
Will you just STOP arguing?
“Look mum, look at my butterfly wings,” says Hannah, flapping her cardigan.
“You’re not a butterfly, you’re a slug.” says Cameron.
It’s the first day of the school holidays and we are in Kendal, looking for shoes. I’d forgotten it takes two days of holiday time for the kids to settle down and stop snapping and griping at each other. I’d also forgotten I hate shoe shopping.
“Can I put these shoes in the bin?” asks Matthew, pulling flapping sole from frayed shoe.
“Not until we find you a new pair.”
“Sluggy sister!” shouts Cameron.
“But they’re mashed.”
I ask him if he plans to wander around the shopping centre in bare feet? But then, I know they would if I gave them the chance. These are kids who like to feel the earth under their feet and the grass between their toes. Matthew used to chuck his shoes out of the buggy when he was a toddler, and eight years ago when cycling New Zealand, Cameron left his only shoes on a playground before we cycled off into the distance.
Are you a shoes on or a shoes off person?
We mentioned this in passing at the time to Ruth Shaw who ran an ecology holiday company on South Island. She reckoned the world was divided into two camps –‘shoes on’ and ‘shoes off’ people.
“The families we’ve had on board, the type that take their children around the world, they just have a totally different attitude to life.” she explained. “My own daughter in law, there is no way she’d have done that with my grandchildren, much as I’d have liked her to, there is no way. She lives in Wellington and they wear shoes all the time.”
Ruth told us helping ‘shoes on’ families get their shoes off was a challenging business, “The parents haven’t walked in the grass with bare feet so why would their children? We need to encourage these parents to get their children and themselves back to nature.”
The UK’s National Trust is thinking along the same lines. A few days ago they raised alarm bells others have been pealing for a while, warning that our children are losing contact with nature at a dramatic rate. They’ve published their concerns in a new report that blames traffic, the lure of screens and parental anxiety (yes it’s that cotton wool parenting raising its ugly head again) for conspiring to keep children indoors.
The trust is launching a consultation on tackling “nature deficit disorder,” arguing that the growing dissociation of children from the natural world hinders their ability to learn through experience. It also has evidence that children themselves believe their happiness depends more on having things to do outdoors than owning technology.
“Can I have that?” Hannah points to a Peppa Pig DS Game.
“What about these? asks Matt.
I’m about to say no, but then I catch sight of what he’s pointing it. In the shop window of Kendal’s Chic Boutique shop sits a pair of grass covered flip flops.
Look at those beauties! We all stop and worship.
“Can I have them?” we all say in unison.
Could flip flops be part of the ‘cure’?
Now, with these nature themed accessories, even the ‘shoes on’ people amongst us can try being ‘shoes off.’ They shall feel the grass under their feet, even in the city. They shall be cooler. They shall perhaps feel tempted to try the real thing. They shall stamp out nature deficit disorder with one grassy foot. They shall be happier and healthier and definitely greener. What if every adult and child was given a pair on the National Health system? Or perhaps this should be the all new National Trust system. For goodness sake, they don’t even need mowing!
I’m starting a campaign. FREE Flip flops for all. Anyone want to sponsor it?
I just know it’ll be a global success.
Do you believe in nature deficit disorder? What ideas do you have for a ‘cure’?