For young cancer patients, acting out a couple of rounds of "Five Little Monkeys Jumping in the Bed" can provide more than just a silly way to have fun or learn math.
It can also help children deal with the significant stress associated with hospital visits for treatment or diagnosis, according to a newly published study.
In a study of 4- to 7-year-old cancer patients, children whose hospital care included music-based activities such as playing handheld instruments or singing action songs like "The Five Little Monkeys," demonstrated a greater frequency of positive coping behaviors than children who simply listened to music or audio storybooks.
The children who participated in what is called "active music engagement" were more prone to smile or laugh; turn the pages of a book while playing; fix their eyes on an activity; or initiate a comment, question or request from a parent, sibling or other person.
"Those are not things kids tend to do when they are under stress. They tend to withdraw and shut down," said Dr. Sheri L. Robb, a behavioral oncology fellow in the School of Nursing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and the study's principal investigator.
The study supports the use of music-based activities to help hospitalized pediatric oncology patients, says Robb, who is also a certified music therapist. The coping behaviors studied included positive facial affect, behavioral engagement and initiation.
"Yes, this music intervention, which is also interactive, helps increase those coping behaviors in kids," Robb says. "They're in a better mood . . . they're more involved, they're physically more active, they're are making decisions, they are making choices, they are initiating in the environment. Based on coping research we know that those are good indicators of better coping."