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‘Bringing the outside in’. An exploration of the playful use of clay and natural materials on the self-esteem of young children. October 2013

By January 1, 2014No Comments

This research investigates whether the playful use of natural materials and clay during nondirective play therapy sessions has an effect on children’s self-esteem. As is apparent from the wealth of literature reviewed, nature and nature based activities have a positive effect on human health and well-being. This positive effect has also become evident in studies relating to children, supporting the theory that contact with nature can support their holistic development. However, there is growing evidence that children are engaging less frequently in nature and are in danger of becoming ‘nature deficit’- potentially suffering long term developmental consequences as a result. The purpose of this research project is to find whether a clay and natural material based intervention may have the potential in helping reduce this deficit and in particular, affect the self-esteem of young children exploring them in a safe therapeutic space. The sample included five children aged between eight and nine years old, based at a local junior school. The primary research method used to evaluate the effectiveness of these sessions is Butler’s Self Image Profile for Children (SIP-C) completed by the children in the sample before and after the intervention. A second means of evaluating other changes brought about as a result of the intervention is the Goodman’s Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) completed by the class teacher’s pre, midpoint and post sessions. Finally, to observe and record the children’s process and feelings throughout the sessions, the researcher devised and used the Researcher Observation Sheet (ROS). These, along with photographs of the images each child created, were reviewed by a clay specialist who offered her clinical input. Results show an improvement in both the children’s self- esteem and views of their self-image, as well as improvements in their concentration and emotional well-being. These results indicate that playfully exploring clay and natural materials in a safe therapeutic space is an effective means of helping to support and enhance children’s self-esteem and perception of self, as well as the potential to help them work through some challenging emotions.