by Nicola Burke, Rosie Adediran and Katie Neilson
When families with young children congregate, music and singing tends to happen! Whether it’s at the local children’s centre stay and play, a 5-minute sing-song at the end of a toddler group in the local church hall, a “rhyme time” session at the local library, singing and music-making with parents/carers and infants is often a strong part of our culture around early childhood.
Those making music with families include children’s centre practitioners, volunteers, parents, library staff, as well as music specialists. But it’s clear that family workers are doing the lion’s share of music delivery on the ground – and that often the work they do is undervalued, they are given little support and receive minimal training in doing this vital but challenging work. At The Family Music Hub, we believe that this must change.
The current landscape
Recent research points to the important place music has in family life – for children as well as for parents and carers, and the music that they access via their local settings can be hugely influential. To name a few of those benefits – the development of speech and language, supporting infant and parental wellbeing, strengthening bonds and attachments between young children and the adults who care for them, and so many more.
However, it’s no secret that the family support sector as a whole is stretched and is seriously under-funded and that the majority of practitioners who engage in Early Childhood Music (ECM) with under 5s and their families receive little or no support and most lack access to training.
We know that when delivery is good, it is possible to enhance infant and parental wellbeing, to empower families with musical tools and knowledge, to nurture listening and communication skills, to connect with, respect and celebrate diverse musical cultural heritages and to nurture bonding between young children and their caregivers. And of course, alongside all of these benefits, good quality ECM supports parents as they begin their child’s musical education and pass on a love of music.
The Family Music Hub
The Family Music Hub (TFMH) was founded in 2021 by Early Education Associate Nicola Burke, Rosie Adediran and Katie Neilson who share a desire to put families at the heart of music sessions, to connect practice and research, and to offer training and support to all those working musically with young children and their families.
We want to change and transform the landscape of music-making with families. Through supporting practitioners who work “on the ground” with families, our vision is that:
- every family with children up to the age of 5 in the UK has access to meaningful group music-making experiences
- a family-centred approach to family music making practice is established nationallythe workforce is supported in their delivery of this vital work across the UK
In partnership with Early Education and with thanks to Youth Music for funding, The Family Music Hub recently delivered an action research project working closely with early childhood family workers in Birmingham. The action research enabled us to further develop our understanding of the needs of family workers to support their ECM practice, develop our CPD programme and develop the structure of our organisation.
What the future holds
Our work includes three interrelated strands.
- Firstly, we deliver continued professional development (CPD) and mentoring specifically targeted to those delivering ECM to the under 5s and their families/carers. Please visit The Family Music Hub website for further details.
- Secondly, we are developing an online hub, bursting with practical resources such as a song bank and research-based information and resources, to support practitioners in their music-making with families. The hub will also act as a platform for a community of practice to develop across the sector. Register for our newsletter for news on the launch.
- We’ll also be conducting ongoing research with family workers to continually assess the needs of the workforce, test and refine our developing pedagogy, develop our CPD offer and to further explore the wonderful world of Early Childhood Music. Get in touch if you’d be interested in becoming action researchers with us!