This weekend marked the first day of my Nature OT program! If you have been following my journey, you know that I had a full time job and did not feel appreciated and happy in this company. I have moved to a casual occupational therapist in this company, and have connected with another occupational therapist to provide nature OT programming to young pediatric clients – something I am SO excited to be a part of!
This Saturday we met for our first session! The first group is a bit of an older group, grade 2 and 3, and the second group are the tiny littles – 3 years old. With the second group, I get the opportunity to be paired with an OTA student (rehab assistant), which is also giving me the opportunity to collaborate with and mentor a student! I am super excited about this, not only because I have been craving teaching and mentoring, but also because working with others has been something I have been missing in the past positions I have had. I absolutely love hearing other people’s inputs on observations and interventions, not only from a professional perspective, but also because people come with their own personal experiences that inform their clinical judgement.
The beauty of nature is that as a medium it can be used in so many different ways in therapy. Just being in nature can be therapeutic on its own, but nature also provides a beautiful place to explore using gross motor skills, items for practicing fine motor skills, content for social skills and rule following and loads to be creative about!
In my second placement in my OT masters degree, I was in a nature based day program with kids, which gave us the freedom to use our creativity to create unique interventions. During this placement, the woman that ran the day program shared that the best way to use nature with kids is to think about the intention of the activity we are planning and what goals we are trying to accomplish.
Over the next 6 weeks of programming, I will be doing more nature specific occupational therapy research, but this first week I based my interventions on the advice of intention. We spent time getting to know each other with age specific social prompts, went hiking through the forest to explore our location and practice our gross motor skills. With the older kids we worked on making connections and getting past our black and white thinking to make friends, as well as using nature in a social emotional exploration, and with the younger ones we used our fine motor skills to gather nature items, glue them to paper and decorate with stickers. With the littles we also read a book to practice sitting and focusing, and did yoga poses for gross motor, ending the session with some deep breathing and reflecting on our day.
In the next couple of weeks, I hope to be able to mesh traditional OT goals with the nature around us, and to get the children interacting with each other and nature in a respectful way. Being in the city, this program also offers a unique opportunity to engage children in nature and teach about the environment, as many children haven’t had the chance to explore nature that much due to the geographic location.
If you are a parent or professional that works with children in nature, what are your favourite nature activities to help with childhood development and do you have any resources that can be shared? I will try to post some updates and some resources I have found to share knowledge and reflect on my experience out in nature this next 6 weeks!
Feel free to comment or connect with me to engage more in the nature conversation 🙂