Healthy play, better coping

From Lego to Pokémon-Go: how does play help children cope with chronic diseases?

Play is of vital importance for healthy development. Therefore, it is essential to learn more about the role of play in various aspects of child development and disease. Suppressed play in chronically ill children may negatively impact their social, cognitive and emotional maturation. Conversely, stimulating play in these children may help to prevent or alleviate persistent negative consequences of their illness.

Chronic illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis, juvenile arthritis and cancer negatively impact children’s physical, behavioural and cognitive development, beyond the actual illness itself. Some of the long-lasting residual effects these children experience may be the result of impaired play.

Spelend kind

Play offers many physical, social and cognitive benefits. It allows children to experiment with their (social) behavioural repertoire, and simulate alternative scenarios and consequences. This facilitates the development of, among other things, emotional capacities, creativity and problem-solving skills. This project aims to build a strong network of scholars from various disciplines across the UU campus to help answer our main question on different levels: what is the adaptive functionality of play in children with chronic diseases?

We will use animal models to test whether and how chronic illness affects social play behavior, and as a result, alters social and neurocognitive development.  From a developmental perspective, we will examine the role of impaired play behaviour in the impact of children’s diseases on, for example, social development, societal participation and stress-regulation. Furthermore, we will attempt to influence treatment outcomes, using a gaming approach to test whether stimulation of play will help children with chronic diseases and their families to effectively deal with their condition.

Dynamics of Youth needs you

Interested in this project? Please contact dr. Heidi, +31 30 253 9876.

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