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Module Two: Lesson One

What are Natural Environments?

The everyday routines, activities and places of daily life are the settings that best promote early childhood learning and development as well as a family's capacity to support their children's growth. The term "natural environments" means these routines, activities, and places.

Hispanic baby with parentsNatural environments are typical places, contexts, activities and experiences that may include the child's home or early care and education settings, and could extend to a visit to the grocery store, going to the beach, eating in a restaurant, storytime at the library, attending church, as well as other places and situations identified by the participants in the Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP) meeting.

Delivering intervention services in natural environments utilizes daily activities and routines as vehicles for addressing skill development in one or more particular domains of development at a variety of times throughout the child's daily schedule of activities. Family routines might include meal time, bath time, play time, car rides, and nap time. Everyday activities might include having fun at the playground, going for a walk, spending time with friends at a playgroup, shopping, and going to the library. Everyday places might include the home, the neighborhood, and community programs such as a recreation center, library, park, or store.

The term "natural environment" is sometimes misinterpreted so that people think only about the place where supports and services are provided. Although location is important, it is only one element of quality supports and services. The elements of why the service is being provided, what the service is, who is providing it, when it is being provided, and how it is being provided are the other essential characteristics. Rather than focusing only on place, when we carefully plan for the "why, what, who, when, and how" of services, we are much more likely to support children's learning and development. To prevent this misinterpretation, rather than using the term "natural environments," Florida has adopted the more expansive phrase "supports and services in everyday routines, activities, and places."

The implementation of policy related to natural environments must focus on helping infants and toddlers achieve appropriate developmental outcomes. This process includes the following:

  • Identifying the everyday routines and activities of the family and other primary caregivers involved in the child's development
  • Recognizing the activities that are important to the family and child (including activities that they currently enjoy, as well as those activities that they would like to do, but are unable to participate in due to the developmental delays or disability that their child presents)
  • Prioritizing the skills that are essential for the child to attain and that are generalized to a variety of naturally occurring, typical routines that the child is engaged in on a daily basis

In Lesson Two, we will further explore the natural learning environments or natural learning opportunities within everyday routines, activities, and places.

 

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