Art of Wellbeing

The Art of Wellbeing: A participatory study with playworkers and children at play

Project Lead: Dr. Nic Matthews

Research Team:  Dr. Denise Hill, Hilary Smith, Dr. Lindsey Kilgour, Leonie Burton

This research project is a collaborative piece of work between the School of Leisure at the University of Gloucestershire (UoG) and Play Gloucestershire (PG). The project will pilot a programme of training and development for playworkers linked to raising awareness of childhood wellbeing, creative research methods and reflective practice. The project will use a mixed method approach which offers all parties an opportunity to further understand childhood wellbeing and enhance the playworkers’ ability to evidence and address wellbeing issues. In addition to running the one day course, the UoG team will then support attendees as they transfer the training into their practice. The playworkers will subsequently act as co-researchers working with children (co-interpreters), using participatory and creative methods, to offer further insight into the lived experience of wellbeing from the children’s perspective.

This research project will not only reflect on the experiences of playworkers as they develop an area of practice but will also contribute to the literature on childhood wellbeing and the methods that can be employed to evidence it. It will culminate in a professional development event run in conjunction with Playwork Partnerships focused on the place that creative methods and narratives can have in playwork practice, using the work of the participant playworkers and children as exemplars.

Research question(s)

  1. How do playworkers understand, and elicit evidence of, childhood wellbeing?
  2. How do children understand and experience wellbeing?

The overall objectives of the project are:

  1. To pilot a training programme for playworkers in community settings which would promote awareness of issues associated with childhood wellbeing.
  2. To use participatory methods to identify and examine critically how children experience well-being.

Research methods (design, procedures, analysis)

This small scale participatory research project will see the research team work with a sample of playworkers on two concurrent phases of work. Firstly, the team will deliver a one day training event and offer follow up support in the participants’ work settings. A set of four semi-structured interviews per participant will be conducted pre- and post- training at intervals reflecting key phases in the embedding of wellbeing-related activities into play programmes leading up to and including the final professional development event. Using photos and other visual materials (Kostenius & Öhrling, 2008, Mather, et al., 2010, Veale, 2005) the second phase will engage the children attending play settings in discussion and conversation about their lived experiences of play within the framework of childhood wellbeing. These creative methods define children as co-interpreters of their experiences (Leitch, 2008) and co-creators of knowledge (France, Bendelow, & Willams, 2002) on childhood wellbeing. Analysis will involve thematic analysis (interview transcripts) (Morse & Richards, 2007) and content analysis (visual materials) (Rose, 2001).


This research project will be disseminated through a number of academic and professional publications  reflecting the broad audience for evidence on children and well-being. The research team will target academic publication such as:  International Journal of Play, Children and Society, Arts & Health, Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health. In addition, the team would write a piece with a practitioner focus (e.g. iPDiP or Children and Young People Now).

Furthermore, the research team would work with Play Gloucestershire and members of the South West Play Forum to promote training and development opportunities to other providers.

For more information: Contact: Hilary Smith

Tel: +44 (0)1242 715207 Email:

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