Look Who’s Talking: Using Creative, Playful Arts-Based Methods in Research with Young Children

Caralyn Blaisdell, Kate Wall, Carol Robinson, Lorna Arnott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The inclusion of children’s perspectives in research is now commonplace (Christensen and James, 2008; Blaisdell et al., 2014). However, young children occupy an ambiguous position in this movement towards more participatory approaches (Tisdall, 2016). For example, visual methods often rely on children’s clear, articulate words about their photographs or drawings (e.g Clark and Moss, 2011), excluding pre-verbal children, children with disabilities, or children who otherwise prefer different means of communication besides the verbal.
This paper explores ways to address this issue, by adopting mixed arts-based methods and graphics representations to elicit young children’s voices in research. The paper builds on the International ‘Look Who’s Talking’ Project, (www.voicebirthtoseven.co.uk), and provides a reflective account of the ways in which we can understand what voice and listening mean to young children themselves. The research took place in five early years settings in Scotland, with provision for 0-7 year olds. Children and practitioners were invited to engage in arts-based methods such as drawing, painting, and sculpting, as well as in conversation.
Findings demonstrate that an open-ended, mixed-method and intergenerational approach to eliciting voices helped us create a more inclusive research context. We argue that a relational theorisation of voice and listening is essential when discussing innovative methods in early childhood research. To disregard the co-constructed, dialogical nature of voice is to create research that excludes children who do not communicate verbally, missing the wide range of non-verbal communication that is ‘hidden’ when voice is considered to mean verbal utterances alone. We conclude that as early childhood research develops and pushes methodological boundaries, it could usefully draw on theorisations of voices as diverse, relational, dialogical and embodied phenomena (e.g. Moosa-Mitha, 2005; Komulainen, 2007; Lenz Taguchi, 2010; Esser, 2016).

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Early Childhood Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 Sept 2018

Bibliographical note

Blaisdell, C., Wall, K., Robinson, C. & Arnott, L., Look Who’s Talking: Using Creative, Playful Arts-Based Methods in Research with Young Children, Journal of Early Childhood Research. Copyright © 2018 The authors. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.


  • children's voice
  • Arts-based research
  • Eliciting voice


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