Singing medicine

Promoting children’s wellbeing, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments through music and singing


Birmingham City University

A Singing Medicine service is offered to children with short and long-term medical and health care needs at Birmingham Children’s Hospital as part of the Hospital’s Play Department. In an environment where children can experience loss of control over decisions and restricted play experiences, musical games and activities offer children affordances to improve these experiences. They also support areas of personal, socio-emotional and communication development, turn taking and overall wellbeing. Singing in particular is noted as a universal human activity (Powell and Gouch, 215) and a conduit for emotional exchange (Elkind 2015; Spratt 2012).


This study aims to describe and analyse the views and perceptions of parents and professionals who care for and support children who participate in the Singing Medicine service. A further aim is to understand how the application of Frobelian principles can help to understand and conceptualise children’s rights and well-being in the context of their family and community in restricted environments such as a Children’s Hospital.


The study takes a qualitative interpretive approach. Semi-structured interviews will be undertaken with approximately ten parents of children and ten professionals (Nurses, Physiotherapists, Paediatricians) who support children during their hospital stay and who observe children’s participation in the musical activities. Observations of music sessions will be undertaken where this is not considered to intrude on children’s privacy or interfere with their enjoyment of the sessions. The aim would be to include as diverse a sample of parents and professionals as possible. Data would be analysed thematically and both common and discrepant themes reported in order to reduce bias. This would be triangulated with a review of empirical literature on the benefits of participation in musical activities for children who experience short and long-term sickness and with chronic medical and health needs and mapped against Froebelian principles.


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