Title

Play in Nature: Implications for Occupational Science

Start Time

16-10-2009 3:30 PM

End Time

16-10-2009 5:00 PM

Abstract

In recent years, there has been an increasing concern that the multisensory experiences afforded by environments such as the outdoors are being replaced by two-dimensional interaction with television and electronic media, possibly contributing to a number of problems such as childhood obesity, sensory integration dysfunction, and disconnectedness from nature. In addition, researchers are beginning to show connections between enhanced physical, psychosocial, and cognitive performance, and engagement in outdoor occupations. These effects may be especially impactful in childhood, as early engagement with nature can lead to lifelong occupational participation and the establishment of a conservation ethic. Because it is one of the primary modes of experiencing the natural world for children, the nature (and changing nature) of childhood play is the main focus of this examination. Engagement in occupations in the natural world is a fundamental human right, and may be threatened by the complexities of today's fast-paced social atmosphere, structural and policy barriers, and increasing environmental destruction. Childhood play may be especially vulnerable to these changes, and occupations in the outdoors are particularly salient in the current climate of increased ecological concern. By studying the developmental benefits afforded by outdoor environments, occupational therapists and occupational scientists may be better equipped to confront and articulate issues of occupational injustice in the broader community. In this paper, selected literature from environmental and developmental psychology and public planning is reviewed as it relates to play in outdoor settings. The lens of occupational science is used to better understand the newly hypothesized relationships between outdoor play and child development, and implications of possible relationships to occupational therapy are discussed. Directions for future research are outlined, including preliminary recommendations for policy enhancement using the occupational justice frame of reference to implicate communities in the provision of safe and accessible outdoor play spaces.

References

Chawla, L. (2002). Spots of time: Manifold ways of being in nature in childhood. In: P.H. Kahn & S.R. Kellert (Eds.) Children and nature: Psychological, sociocultural, and evolutionary investigations (pp. 199-225). Cambridge: MIT Press.

Kellert, S.R. (2002). Experiencing nature: Affective, cognitive, and evaluative development in children. In: P.H. Kahn & S.R. Kellert (Eds.) Children and nature: Psychological, sociocultural, and evolutionary investigations (pp. 117- 151). Cambridge: MIT Press.

Kuo, F.E. & Faber Taylor, A. (2004). A Potential natural treatment for attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 94(9): 1580-1586. Access Article

Thompson, C.W. & Travlou, P. (Eds.). (2007). Open space people space. London: Taylor and Francis Group.

Townsend, E., & Wilcock, A.A. (2004). Occupational justice and client-centered practice: A Dialogue. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(2): 75-87. Article Access

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Oct 16th, 3:30 PM Oct 16th, 5:00 PM

Play in Nature: Implications for Occupational Science

In recent years, there has been an increasing concern that the multisensory experiences afforded by environments such as the outdoors are being replaced by two-dimensional interaction with television and electronic media, possibly contributing to a number of problems such as childhood obesity, sensory integration dysfunction, and disconnectedness from nature. In addition, researchers are beginning to show connections between enhanced physical, psychosocial, and cognitive performance, and engagement in outdoor occupations. These effects may be especially impactful in childhood, as early engagement with nature can lead to lifelong occupational participation and the establishment of a conservation ethic. Because it is one of the primary modes of experiencing the natural world for children, the nature (and changing nature) of childhood play is the main focus of this examination. Engagement in occupations in the natural world is a fundamental human right, and may be threatened by the complexities of today's fast-paced social atmosphere, structural and policy barriers, and increasing environmental destruction. Childhood play may be especially vulnerable to these changes, and occupations in the outdoors are particularly salient in the current climate of increased ecological concern. By studying the developmental benefits afforded by outdoor environments, occupational therapists and occupational scientists may be better equipped to confront and articulate issues of occupational injustice in the broader community. In this paper, selected literature from environmental and developmental psychology and public planning is reviewed as it relates to play in outdoor settings. The lens of occupational science is used to better understand the newly hypothesized relationships between outdoor play and child development, and implications of possible relationships to occupational therapy are discussed. Directions for future research are outlined, including preliminary recommendations for policy enhancement using the occupational justice frame of reference to implicate communities in the provision of safe and accessible outdoor play spaces.