Nature Play WA and The ORIGINS Project pilot lifestyle building plan for families
Nature Play WA and The ORIGINS Project will collaborate to pilot a program that aims to address unhealthy behaviours around eating, sleeping and physical activity levels in young children, which can contribute to long-term lifestyle habits.
The Nature Play & Grow project will help families to unlock the mental and physical health benefits of connecting with nature and community through outdoor play, easily, and locally, Nature Play WA CEO Dr Kelsie Prabawa-Sear explained.
During the eight-week program, families gather for outdoor group sessions, which have a specific focus each week, but which also contribute to some overarching themes and understandings, namely:
- Develop a community (participate, engage, and communicate)
- Develop a connectedness to nature (awareness of, responsibility toward, enjoyment of nature and specific places)
- Develop healthy ways of living and sustainable practices (reduce, reuse, recycle)
- Develop a playful mindset (be conscious of responses e.g., what to say instead of “be careful”).
During the eight-week program children participating in the program will:
- Develop lifelong habits or dispositions (creativity, curiosity, confidence, enthusiasm, endurance, independence, persistence, resilience, imagination, problem-solving) to take care of themselves independently and be engaged, motivated and contributing community members
- Develop an explorative mindset
- Engage with their senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell)
- Engage with nature
- Develop social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and language skills
- Develop risk assessment skills and safety sense (what’s safe to explore).
As part of the program, participating families are asked to complete an online questionnaire and watch weekly podcasts, presented by child health and development experts.
To assess the efficacy of the program, the ORIGINS team are also collecting stool samples from participant families to assess the impact the increased time in nature is having on their microbiome – their gut health – as well as their wellbeing.
“This program is essentially a hybrid between a play date, a parenting course, and a community group,” Dr Prabawa-Sear said.
“It is grounded in fun, social, activity, but it is also informed by research and useful parenting information that can help set the scene for making local outdoor play a big part of families’ lives. It is about empowering families with information, with hands-on experience, with knowledge of their local area, and by building relationships with other families.”
The pilot will be based on the strong evidence base that time in nature is associated with better child health including improved physical activity, eating behaviours, sleep quality and all aspects of physical and mental well-being.
“The program steers families towards fun and interactive experiences, what we’re calling green time, and away from sedentary activities on devices – screen time,” Dr Lisa Gibson, researcher with The ORIGINS Project explained.
There has been a significant shift from active, outdoor nature-based activities to more passive screen-based indoor activities, she continued, with an associated rise in psychological disorders, chronic disease, and a disconnect from the natural environment.
“This is a real concern for many young families, who don’t realise the significance of the impact this may be having on their young kids and the unhealthy habits that are being established,” Dr Gibson added.
“Combining the experience and expertise of Nature Play WA, with the science of ORIGINS within this program is what makes it so unique, as it is helping families on a number of levels.”
The Minderoo Foundation is supporting the pilot project, recognising the importance of nature-connectedness for young children.
Feedback from participants thus far has been positive, with the research team hoping to roll the program out within the community on a much larger scale.
The Nature Play & Grow program is delivered in partnership between Nature Play WA, The ORIGINS Project, Telethon Kids Institute, Joondalup Health Campus, and Minderoo Foundation.
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