Date
01/05/2018
Grant holder
Dr. Carolyn Blackburn, Birmingham City University
Project status
Completed

A research project looking how the application of Froebelian principles can help us to understand and conceptualise children’s rights and wellbeing in the context of their family and community in restricted environments such as a Children’s Hospital.

Project summary

This study aimed to explore the views and perceptions of parents and professionals who care for and support children who participate in the Singing Medicine project delivered at Birmingham Children’s Hospital with a particular focus on children’s wellbeing, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments.

A further aim was to understand how the application of Froebelian principles can help us to understand and conceptualise children’s rights and wellbeing in the context of their family and community in restricted environments such as a Children’s Hospital. In an environment where children can feel they have lost control over their lives singing games offer children ways of making decisions. The games also support areas of children’s learning and can be adapted to meet children’s individual needs as required. The deep breathing required by singing enables participants to reconnect with core muscles, and helps increase lung capacity.

Visit the project website: http://www.bcu.ac.uk/research/stories/childrens-wellbeing

Key findings

Themes that arose from interviews included the important characteristics of the Singing Medicine vocal tutors; contribution to children’s emotions; contribution to child/family experiences of hospital; contribution to children’s development and learning (including neurodevelopment); spiritual and cultural dimensions; contribution to medical care (including contribution to the wellbeing of health professionals), contextual aspects of the project and contribution to family life, patterns and structures. The potential contribution to children’s neurodevelopment is an important finding since it was mentioned by participants that neurodevelopment is an aspect of healthcare provision often omitted due to the understandable need to focus on acute care and patient survival and recovery.

From observations there was evidence of choices for children; following children’s lead; facilitating medical care; building memorable moments for families and focussing on children’s holistic development. From the focus group discussion with vocal tutors it was noted that there are important characteristics of and values held by the vocal tutors that relate to valuing children and families interests and strengths and empowering them, as well as ensuring that the project brings a positive dimension to their hospital experience.

These findings demonstrate the benefit of participating in the project for children, their family members and health professionals supporting them. The findings can be mapped against all six of the Froebelian principles promoted by the Froebel Trust. The project values childhood by promoting children’s right to play and relax, whilst at the same time valuing children’s interests, identities, capacities as well as medical fragility. The project adopts a family-centred model of operation that values the bonds and connections between children and significant others in their lives. Connecting children to the outside world of nature, culture, community and society through singing games is evident throughout the findings. The central role of play and creativity is transmitted from the playful approaches adopted by the vocal tutors. Protection from harm and promotion of wellbeing is facilitated by the training provided for and characteristics of the vocal tutors, as well as the contribution of the singing games to children’s (and families) sense of happiness and wellbeing.

Next steps

This study included a small sample which limits the potential to generalise the findings, however, the sample was as varied as possible and the findings are relevant to the hospital setting in which the study was undertaken. Further studies with a larger sample and an evaluative aspect would provide a stronger evidence base. In particular, the benefits for children’s neurodevelopment demand attention. Further research into children’s experiences of the Singing Medicine project would be interesting as well as the emotional impact of delivering the project on the vocal tutors.

Conference presentations

Blackburn, C., (2018) Promoting children’s well-being, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments through music and singing Collaborative Approaches to Music and Wellbeing Research Leeds University October 2018

Blackburn, C. and the Ex Cathedra vocal tutors (2018) Promoting children’s wellbeing, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments through music and singing. BCU annual CSPACE conference Creativities in Education, Birmingham 3rd July 2018

Blackburn, C., Ayling, M. N, and Raeburn, H.,(2018) Promoting children’s wellbeing, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments through music and singing. Presentation to Child Health Nursing Team at Birmingham City University 25th April 2018

Blackburn, C. (2018) Promoting children’s wellbeing, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments through music and singing. Parallel Session at BECERA Annual Conference, The Mac, Birmingham 20th February 2018

Blackburn, C, Leddgard, R., Toumi, M. Raeburn, H., King, G. Weber, U., Spencer, S. and Budd, S. (2018) Promoting children’s wellbeing, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments through music and singing. Workshop at Birmingham City University Annual Health Conference ‘Creative Caring’, 24th January 2018

Publications

BLACKBURN, C. (2020) ‘The People in the Purple Shirts’: Froebelian insights to a Singing Medicine project in a Children’s Hospital Early Childhood Research Journal https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1476718X20935158

BLACKBURN C (2019) Family members’ perceptions of a Singing Medicine project in a children’s hospital. Nursing Children and Young People. doi:0.7748/ncyp.2019.e1241 https://journals.rcni.com/nursing-children-and-young-people/evidence-and-practice/family-members-perceptions-of-a-singing-medicine-project-in-a-childrens-hospital-ncyp.2019.e1241/abs

British Education Research Association (BERA) Blog https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/promoting-childrens-wellbeing-and-right-to-make-choices-and-engage-in-playful-activities-in-restricted-environments-through-music-and-singing

Blackburn, C. (2018) Promoting children’s wellbeing, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments through music and singing. BCU CSPACE Blog http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/education/2018/02/14/promoting-childrens-well-being-right-to-make-choices-and-engage-in-playful-activities-in-restricted-environments-through-music-and-singing/