by Barbara Mohr-Modes, MSOT OTR/L
This study compared the historical changes in play behavior of preschool children described in contemporary anthropological literature with current perceptions of change from selected U.S. and German occupational therapists and other pediatric therapeutic professionals, and explored whether these pediatric occupational therapists have adapted their therapeutic interventions in response. A qualitative research methodology was applied, with data collected through focus groups and individual interviews. The six U.S. and four German occupational therapists along with the two play therapists who participated in this study recounted observing changes in the play themes and in their preschool clients‚ ability to attend and focus. The age of technology has brought new developments in electronic games, which have influenced children’s play. The therapists perceived changes in parental and societal attitudes and environments as even more extensive. Both U.S. and German occupational therapists over time have observed an expansion of modalities, the development of richer child-therapist interactions and an increase of parent mentoring as part of their interventions. Occupational therapy interventions have changed primarily through personal and professional processes of development, not necessarily because of changes in children’s play behavior. The therapists in this study confirmed the findings of social historians and developmental psychologists who wrote how changes over time in society’s social environmental, and philosophical orientations strongly influenced child development, and therefore, children's play. These therapists agreed with the anthropological view of play as an innate universal kind of behavior existing among the members of all human societies and they confirmed the power of play in the lives of preschool children in changing societies.