Nature Based Therapy

Playing in nature encourages children to slow down, breathe, dream, and grow!

Nature Based Occupational Therapy allows children to achieve developmental milestones in the outdoor natural play environment. Encouraging children to explore and interact with nature facilitates play, sensory, emotional, and physical growth. This holistic approach supports healthy lifestyle development and promotes internal motivation to participate in therapeutic activities!

Children spend an average of 8 hours per day on technology. Research suggests that children should participate in 3 hours of outdoor free play per day. These alarming statistics play a vital role in the success in our children’s development.

Play and Peer Engagement:

A child’s “job” is to play. Play enables children to problem solve, engage with peers, make decisions, build imagination, and attend to tasks. The elements of the outdoors including sticks, rocks, grass, animals, and leaves offer endless possibilities for children to engage in imaginary peer play while developing social skills.  

 Sensory Processing:

Sensory Integration Therapy will be leveraged during outdoor sessions.  Our brain receives and responds to information that comes through our senses, known as our Sensory Processing System. Many children who have Sensory Processing Disorder detect sensory information differently and may be “hyposensitive” (i.e. under responsive and needs to crash) or “hypersensitive” (i.e. over responsive and avoids textures). Many children with sensory processing disorder have a "short fuse", seem uncoordinated, have difficulty making friends, and attending. 

The outdoor environment provides exposure to an array of calming sensory experiences. This may include walking in the grass to improve tactile tolerance, climbing on uneven surfaces for proprioceptive input, swinging for vestibular input, or meditating with the birds chirping.

Coordination and Strength:

Does your child appear uncoordinated or clumsy? Does your child have difficulty grasping a pencil for prolonged durations? Many children present with decreased core and upper body strength impacting their ability to sustain themselves on playground equipment, dress themselves independently, and sit upright at school. Nature is one big obstacle course requiring constant core engagement while playing on uneven surfaces such as rocks and logs. Therapeutic strategies will be implemented while a child weight bears on all fours to garden.  

Emotional Regulation:

Pediatric stress levels are at an all-time high due to COVID-19, screen time, social pressures, and over booked schedules. Research shows that spending just 5 minutes in nature decreases one’s heart rate and lowers stress. Mindfulness activities including gardening, sensory scavenger hunts, and nature walks encourage children to develop healthy coping strategies.

Chronic Pain:

Over 1.7 million children in the United States have chronic pain. Harnessing controls of a child’s physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing is crucial to chronic pain management. Exercise, meditation, energy conservation, and healthy eating strategies will be utilized in the outdoor environment.


Starfish Occupational Therapy offers nature based therapy at farms, nature parks, and the child's backyard! 




Philadelphia Occupational Therapy for Kids

Why Starfish?

Starfish regenerate their arms which signifies growth and renewal. This symbolizes the healing process which requires time and the development of grit through grace. Each arm of the starfish represents part of Starfish Occupational Therapy, PLLC mission: grit, grace, character, confidence and knowledge. Such critical strategies are relied on when treating children with chronic conditions. Starfish use only their sensory systems to navigate their environment and many children needing OT have neurological differences that require focus on sensory development. Harnessing control of our sensory systems is a foundational skill needed for play and life skill development.

Meet Caroline

Caroline Donovan, MSOT, OTR/L is the owner of Starfish Occupational Therapy, PLLC, a pediatric private practice in the Philadelphia region. Caroline has pediatric occupational therapy experience in early intervention, outpatient, acute care, and horse therapy settings. Caroline has expertise in pediatric chronic pain techniques and daily management.

Caroline loves the beach, her two golden retrievers, and skiing! Caroline hopes to travel all 50 states and has 16 left!

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