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Play as an occupation has been long identified as a primary aspect of a child’s life (Moore & Lynch, 2017). Play provides children with ways to explore the world while learning skills to improve critical thinking, creativity, and positive self-esteem, and simply to have fun (Guirguis, 2018; Yanof, 2019). Children with cancer face barriers that limit their ability to engage in play, with negative consequences to their social, cognitive, and emotional development (Nijhof et al., 2018). There is an evident gap in a lack of play opportunities in community-based settings, which may limit a child’s personal development, social skills, and leave a negative impact on their mental health outcomes (Frygner-Holm et al., 2020). As families play a vital role in a child’s continuum of care, there is often a lack of social engagement and psychosocial support for caregivers (Jones et al. 2022). Therefore, this capstone project aimed to develop a program for children with cancer to increase play opportunities to improve social participation and mental health outcomes while providing support for caregivers in a community-based setting. In learning about the lived experiences of children with cancer and their caregivers, informal interviews and occupational profiles were gathered to examine supports and barriers in their environment that affected their occupational performance (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2020). Several barriers to occupational performance included the effects of cancer treatments, being in and out of hospitals, transitioning to a community, social isolation, and negative mental health outcomes. The program established weekly groups for children with cancer to engage in play, alongside caregiver support groups. Several resources were also provided to children, families, and staff, focusing on wellness, play considerations for children with cancer, mental health resources, cultural considerations, support groups, and much more. This project contributes to the profession of occupational therapy by providing a valuable, client-centered role in supporting children with cancer and their caregivers as they transition to a community-based setting to promote meaningful play activities and wellness resources to develop skills needed for their daily life as they transition into a new environment and unfamiliar time in their lives.

Publication Date

Spring 4-22-2023


University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences


pediatric cancer, play, occupational therapy, caregivers, community-based

Medical Subject Headings

Play and Playthings, Oncology, Pediatrics, Patients, Caregivers, Occupational Therapy, Child, Qualitative Research, Interviews


Occupational Therapy | Oncology | Pediatrics


Poster presented at the Spring 2023 Virtual OTD Capstone Symposium held online at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences on April 4 and April 12, 2023.

An Occupational Therapy Approach to Play for Pediatric Cancer Patients