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  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.
Natural 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, story time at the library, attending church, as well as other places and situations identified by the participants in the Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP) meeting. (The IFSP process, including team identification of functional outcomes (goals), is presented in Module 3: Introduction to the Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP) Process and Form.)
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. This approach recognizes 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). 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 locations 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." This approach reflects the core mission of early intervention and Early Steps, which is to provide support to families to help their children develop to their fullest potential, and allows children and families to more fully participate in their communities.
When parents and other caregivers identify and promote learning opportunities within daily activities and routines using available materials and resources, the child has more opportunities to experience and practice new skills.