Parent-child group activities in Children’s Centres: comparing music, art, and outdoor activities

Pitt, J. (2014) Parent-child group activities in Children’s Centres: comparing music, art, and outdoor activities. In: Conference of the United Kingdom Network of Music Educators and Researchers of Young Children 2014, 14 June 2014, Cambridge, UK.


Parent-child group music making activity in Children’s Centres can be seen as part of socio-cultural learning. Vygotsky suggests that society has an important part to play in an individual’s development with interaction between parents, carers, peers and the wider cultural context contributing to higher order functions (Vygotsky, 1978, 1986). Mental functions originate socially between people (interpsychologically) and then inside a child (intrapsychological), the interaction is dynamic – society influences people and people influence society. Rogoff draws on this theory with a particular interest in the cultural aspects of collaboration, learning through observation and the role of adults as guides to children’s participation in cultural activities (Rogoff, 1991, 2003). Additionally, the earliest ‘intersubjectve’ interactions between adult and child (Fogel,1977; Stern, Beebe, Jaffe and Bennett, 1977; Trevarthen, 1999; Trevarthen and Malloch, 2000) are viewed as essentially musical in nature, with sustained shared empathetic meaning. There is an emotional and musical aspect to socio-cultural learning between a parent and their young child. This presentation will propose a model of musical-social-learning based on the findings from the final phase of a three-phase doctoral research project. Parent-child group musical activities were compared with similar art and outdoor activities through an open observation of fifteen children for a random 15-minute time period. Some of the findings suggest that the music group activity’s action songs, which Eckerdal and Merker (2009) describe as an introduction to active participation in human ritual, may help the child and parent to coparticipate in the activity. Furthermore, this may allow for self-assessment through the shared group experience (based on Fogel et al., 2000), which may lead to a sense of ‘communitas’ (Turner, 1982) or shared ‘flow’ experience, giving rise to positive feelings and confidence, since more smiling and laughter were evident in the music group than in the other two activities. The art and outdoor activity groups promoted speech, movement, pointing and the wide use of objects and materials, indicating that different approaches to partnerships in play with young children and their parents/carers may have different benefits.

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