Learning about emotions with Humphrey B. Bear

Monash Education researchers on the AllPlay program have partnered with Humphrey B. Bear to launch music videos and activity cards that support children of all abilities to move and regulate their emotions in classrooms and at home.

Monash Education’s AllPlay team explains their latest project.

Emotion regulation is a critical skill that involves recognising, managing and expressing emotions in adaptive ways, and allows children to learn, socialise and engage in daily activities. Teaching and supporting children to recognise, understand and evaluate the expression of emotions is part of the Early Years Learning Framework, and Personal and Social Capability curriculum, in Victoria. However, its significance has been heightened by the negative impacts of COVID-19 in children’s wellbeing, development and learning.

Staff in a meeting

It is well documented that many young people — and most significantly, children with disability and/or those experiencing developmental vulnerability — have experienced a marked increase in mental health difficulties and behavioural and social challenges throughout the pandemic. This includes severe anxiety, isolation and loneliness, eating disorders, school refusal, depression and suicidality. Younger children, in particular, have also missed out on the developmental benefits of play-based and inquiry-based learning during preschool.

A multidisciplinary team of researchers at the School of Educational Psychology and Counselling have conducted decades of research on taking a strengths-based approach to inclusion of children and youth with disability — including autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, and anxiety — in educational settings, sports and dance. Through participatory research, the researchers co-designed the AllPlay programs, which aim to ‘make the world fit for all people’. The programs provide strengths- and evidence-based resources and professional learning with practical strategies that teachers and caregivers can use to support young people at childcare, kindergarten, school and home.

AllPlay programs embrace Kazdin’s Yale Child Study Centre innovative children’s health service model to scale and implement research outcomes. For example, through partnership with Humphrey B. Bear, AllPlay programs engage in ‘task-shifting’ — that is, the programs expand the inclusion workforce and deliver evidence-based interventions through social media and entertainment.

Staff in a meeting
Humphrey B. Bear and children on a film set

To respond to the impacts arising from COVID-19 for children with disability, the AllPlay team created ‘COVID-19 support’ guides and resources with funding from the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) and in-kind funding from Fika Entertainment. Media spin out content included social and emotional wellbeing resources featuring Humphrey B. Bear — an icon of Australian children’s television. A honey-loving bear who, like every child (and many grown-ups), loves exploring, creating, playing, learning, and giving anything a go!

AllPlay and Humphrey B. Bear

Staff in a meeting
AllPlay: Emotion regulation

AllPlay mobilises an active community with a diversity of users and research participants, including young people and their families, early childhood to secondary school education professionals, clinicians, community sports coaches, and dance teachers. AllPlay Learn is the flagship program developed in partnership with DET, launched in 2019. AllPlay Learn received the AFR Community Engagement Award (2020) and has been integrated into the NSW Department of Education Inclusion Practice Hub (2022). AllPlay Footy is currently being embedded into the AFL platforms to strengthen inclusive coaching for NAB AFL Auskick and junior footy. AllPlay Dance has extended beyond Queensland Ballet, creating professional development for community dance teachers and studios to enable accessible and inclusive dance for all children.

The new partnership between AllPlay and Humphrey B. Bear included the licensing of three original songs and music videos: ‘Angry Pixie Stomp’,‘Shake My Blues Away’ and ‘Calm and Mellow’, which feature original music compositions by Corinne Gibbons, lyrics by former Hi-5 Executive Producer, Julie Greene, choreography by Dr Olivia Millard, virtual production by FIKA Entertainment, and appearances by Humphrey B. Bear (courtesy of OzPix Entertainment). The music videos and accompanying activity cards provide movements that children, families or classes can do together, such as clench, stamp, sway and twirl, to inspire children of all abilities to follow the movements, or come up with their own variations. The videos were shot across Victoria and Queensland, bringing together special features by AFL disability players, Queensland Ballet dancers and AllPlay child/youth ambassadors, who perform with Humphrey B. Bear.

Why movement?

Regularly engaging in movement activities is important for health, wellbeing and development. Movement can have a wide variety of benefits, including for physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. For example, different types of movement, such as play, dance and organised sports, can provide people with the opportunity to improve motor skills and fitness, increase concentration, be part of a team, and make friends. Further, through being active, neurotransmitters are released, creating feelings of wellbeing, boosting brain health, and reducing the impact of stress. That’s why it is vital to give children the chance to include movement in their daily routine and support children to learn about how moving can impact their wellbeing. Getting children moving in the classroom is an increasingly popular way of providing regular movement opportunities to children and can have benefits, such as increasing physical activity levels and class engagement.

Learning about emotions

Staff in a meeting
AllPlay: Movement emotion cards

Children learn to recognise, express and manage emotions in adaptive ways by observing others expressing and managing emotions, and through warm and responsive relationships with parents or other significant adults in their lives. The music videos with Humphrey B. Bear support children to recognise emotions in themselves and others and model some movements that may help express these emotions.

The activity cards include prompts to help children identify the types of movements that help them express an emotion and reflect on how they feel after they have engaged in a movement activity, so that they can begin to recognise the ways movement can support their emotion regulation and wellbeing. Best of all, through these videos and activity cards, parents, teachers or educators can join in with children to dance their way through emotions together, building feelings of wellbeing and connection, while learning how to recognise, express and manage emotions.

More on emotions

Additional guides and resources (including emotion cards and stories) filled with evidence-based strategies and best practice tips to support emotion regulation can be found on AllPlay Learn. The researchers on the team continue working with the community to create meaningful content. We would love to hear from early childhood educators and teachers, primary and secondary school teachers and families about how you use our music videos and activity cards with Humphrey B. Bear in your centres, classrooms and homes. Please follow AllPlay on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and contact us on allplay@monash.edu

Resources

https://allplay.org.au/humphrey-b-bear/

https://allplaylearn.org.au/early/educator/emotions/

https://allplaylearn.org.au/primary/teacher/emotions/

https://allplaylearn.org.au/secondary/teacher/emotions/

References

Bailey, R., Hillman, C., Arent, S., & Petitpas, A. (2013). Physical activity: An underestimated investment in human capital?. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 10(3), 289-308.

Dale, L. P., Vanderloo, L., Moore, S., & Faulkner, G. (2019). Physical activity and depression, anxiety, and self-esteem in children and youth: An umbrella systematic review. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 16, 66-79.

Kazdin, A.E. (2019). Annual Research Review: Expanding mental health services through novel models of intervention delivery. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 60(4):455-472.

Shafir, T. (2015). Movement-based strategies for emotion regulation. In M. L. Bryant (Ed.), Handbook on Emotion Regulation (231-249). Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Silkenbeumer, J.R., Schiller, E-M., & Kärtner, J. (2018). Co- and self-regulation of emotions in the preschool setting. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 44,72-81,n

Webster, C. A., Russ, L., Vazou, S., Goh, T. L., & Erwin, H. (2015). Integrating movement in academic classrooms: understanding, applying and advancing the knowledge base. Obesity Reviews, 16(8), 691-701.

Yang, W., Wong, S. H. S., Sum, R. K. W., & Sit, C. H. P. (2021). The association between physical activity and mental health in children with special educational needs: A systematic review. Preventive medicine reports, 23, 101419.