The Little Buddies Programme 3yrs - 6yrs

Little Buddies age 3yrs - 6yrs



Friends help give meaning to our lives, fulfil the need to belong, and provide support during tough time. They are pretty central to happiness and well being. Research has also shown that the better the quality of your relationships, the more likely you are to be happy.

The school and pre-school environment can be very stressful; in addition to any issues children bring from home, many struggle to make friends and perform well in class. Being excluded, ignored, or teased is very painful for a young child, so we have built our Little Buddies Program around teaching kindness, friendship, empathy and compassion, using the Buddy Bench as a visual aid.

The Workshop

"Look Up, Look Around and Look Out for Each Other”
Buddy Bench Ireland
Happy Hub After School Cork City

When other kids are suffering— for example when a boy falls over and cuts his leg—can we understand how they might be feeling?

Kindness bridges that gap and helps build a sense of connection with other children, teachers, and even parents.

Buddy Bench Ireland
Little Buddies Bench

Buddy Bench Ireland
Little Buddies Bench


Using puppets, story and song we teach the ABCs of Little Buddies:

Awareness: Being aware of our feelings and how they change; if a child is feeling sad, alone or afraid, it's always good to share and talk about it.

Breath and Body: Children learn to use breathing to cultivate peace and quiet. Then they explore what emotion feels like in the body.

Caring: We teach kids to think about how others are feeling and cultivate kindness. When children perform an act of kindness, or benefit from one, they naturally "feel great".


Buddy Bench Ireland
Churchhill NS Kilkenny Little Buddies


Learning to strengthen attention and regulate emotions are foundational skills that could benefit children in school and throughout their whole lives.

Each child receives a copy of our beautifully illustrated interactive workbook featuring teaching story and fun, creative activities.

You can read along and join in the questions too!


Buddy Bench Ireland
"Kin" our Foxy Friend
The feedback from our programmes is very promising – we are currently completing an evaluation with the Mental Health Social Research Unit at NUI Maynooth. According to teachers’ ratings, children show more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they feel upset. Their social and emotional development has improved, the children showed improvement in the ability to think flexibly, and had cultivated the life skills that have been linked to health and success in later life.


Combined with the Buddy Bench as a visual tool in times of distress, the children were able to find comfort and support through each other rather than feeling upset and worried. It’s these small changes, spread across classrooms, that could make society more kind—and educate a new generation of more compassionate and connected adults.



To book us to come to your school and deliver any of our programmes email:hello@buddybench.ie or call us on (056) 7702027


Little Buddies Competition


Little Buddies Competition

Have you a story to tell about your school days? Our competition is open to anyone, who looks back and wonders what a difference it would have made had there been a Buddy Bench in their school ground.  We now know how important it is to teach children how to recognise and express their feelings and emotions.  We at Buddy Bench strongly believe that early intervention is key to nurturing positive mental health and well being in our children.

To enter the competition, please tell us, via email to hello@buddybench.ie  or comment on the Facebook competition post, liking and sharing also. How having a Buddy Bench in your school would have made a difference to you”?


The prize is a fabulous little buddy’s custom made mini-Buddy Bench, the Little Buddies Awareness programme and our Robin Red for a junior infant’s class of your choice worth up to €800. The competition will run for the month of September and the winner announced on the Friday 29th.

Friends help give meaning to our lives, fulfil the need to belong, and provide support during tough time. They are pretty central to happiness and well being. Research has also shown that the better the quality of your relationships, the more likely you are to be happy.Being excluded, ignored, or teased is very painful for a young child, so we have built our Little Buddies Programme around teaching kindness, friendship, empathy and compassion.


We look forward to hearing your stories and the very best of luck.
The Buddy Bench Team

Starting "Big" School




The big day is nearly here, your ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’ is getting ready to start ‘big school’! 


The books are bought, the backpack filled, the uniform pressed and ready to go! Both you and your child feel the excitement and anticipation of the big day to come. You know his self-esteem is high, and that he is well able to communicate his needs to the teacher. You know how independent she is, and that her social skills and friendships are strong. In your heart of hearts, you know they are ready to take this first step into formal education. So, what can you do in these final days to support them during this important transition?

Start by talking about school and reading books about children starting school. These books cover all sorts of situations, and can be a great way to start conversations about what is expected in the primary school system.  Pre-empt any anxieties by going through the various processes – when they will have lunch, what do to if they need to use the toilet, where you will meet them at the end of the day. Speak positively about school, if you are nervous about them starting school, try not to show it! 

In practical terms, think about how independent they can be.

Can she put on and take off her coat herself? (If her coat is new, make sure she can recognise it!).

Is he confident in using the bathroom? (If his new uniform has zips, just check he can use them).
Can she open and close her schoolbag and lunchbox? (Usually these are both new).

Don’t forget to label all their possessions. This can avoid rows over who owns what!

Break and lunch times can be hectic in a classroom full of junior infants, and the teacher will often not have enough time (or hands!) to help so many children. Little oranges can be difficult to peel, yogurt drinks can end up down the front of their jumper, and plastic wrapped cheeses of various sorts often end up at the bottom of the lunch box half opened. Try having a ‘pretend school lunchtime’ with your child at home so that they can try things out, and you can see what they can manage easily.

If your child does not know any other children in the new class, ask around to see if any children living near you will be starting and introduce them before the big day.  Starting school is always easier with a hand to hold! 

Try to get into a new routine early – earlier bed time and waking earlier in the morning – and plan your routine for the mornings. What can you have ready the night before to make your mornings easier? Better to have more time in the mornings, than be rushing in a panic. A stressed parent = stressed child.

On the first morning at school, arrive in plenty of time.  Don’t worry if there are a few tears (either your child or yourself – just hide your own till you have left the classroom!) it is often just a release of all the emotion of the day. No matter how you are feeling, be positive with your child.

Don’t linger too long in the classroom - if your child is nervous, try to engage them in an activity, or with another child before you leave. Always tell them when you are leaving, and that you will be there waiting for them when school ends. Remind them that if they are unsure of anything, just ask the teacher – she is there to help.

If you have an anxious child, don’t minimise their concerns, instead talk to them about what to expect and talk through how they might respond to any concerns they might have. A little trick can be to put a few drops of your perfume on a hankie for them to take in their schoolbag with them – if feeling a little nervous, it can help to have a little sniff of mum! Or get two little matching charms one for you and one for the child to take to school – if you are missing each other you have the charm to remind you the other one is thinking of you.

At the end of the day, make sure you are on time to collect them! It can be very upsetting for a child if they are left waiting for you. After school, try to have some time set aside to talk to your child about their daily activities. But try not to worry if your child says ‘I don’t know’ when asked about school life, they have an awful lot to take in over those first weeks. Most parents have experience of the greeting ‘what did you do today?’ getting the response ‘nothing’! Remember this transition is not just the first day of school, it takes time to settle into the new classroom and routine, and you can expect them to be more tired than usual over the first weeks.

Finally, don’t forget to look after your own emotional well-being. Your child starting school can be as much of an emotional change for you as it is for them. Keep yourself busy over those first days. Try to have a few words with some of the other parents at drop off and pick up times, they are going through the same emotions, and will probably become your friends and allies for the next eight years or so! Your child starting school is both exciting and emotional, watching them finding their wings and learning to fly. Don’t worry it will soon be 3pm, and your little whirlwind will be back, eyes sparkling, to reassure you that she really is a ‘big girl’ now!  

Thank You Dr Mary O'Kane


Dr Mary O'Kane is a lecturer in Psychology and Early Childhood Education with Maynooth University and The Open University. Her PhD research studied the issues that children in Ireland, and their families, face during the transition from preschool to primary school. Mary provides training seminars for preschool providers and parents in the areas of wellbeing and self esteem, resilience in young children, positive behaviour management, and preparing children for primary school. Mary worked as the resident early years expert on the Anton Savage show on Today FM, and from 2017 works in the same capacity on the Alison Curtis Show. Mary is also a regular contributor to Ireland AM on parenting and early childhood education issues.

How to Explain Terrorism to your Child?



As parents, there is a constant temptation to shield our children from bad news. But sometimes, and in particular with acts of terrorism, bad news is unavoidable - it’s in on television, it’s on social media, and it’s on our minds.

Experts from the Royal College of Psychiatrists have advised that parents should be honest with their children about the Manchester terror attack. "We would not advise hiding your child from what may be on the news or social media," said Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chairwoman-elect of RCP's child and adolescent psychiatry faculty. "They will inevitably learn about it from their friends, so it's best to be honest with them about what has happened.

Yet how exactly do you go about explaining to a young child that 22 people have been murdered at a concert?

Language Matters

For children of all ages, the most important thing is to reassure them that they are safe. Don’t get into the political context with primary-aged children. That may come up in conversation with older children, but the importance at any age is offering the reassurance that they are safe.

For pre-school children, use concrete language: don’t say “This person went to sleep” or “We’ve lost that person” - because that could instil fear or anxiety in that child about going to sleep. And what does lost mean? They’re lost at the shops? Be accurate and mindful of the impact of your language.

Age-appropriate conversations

For pre-school, think about how much exposure they’ve had. Maybe they’ve overheard the news, so the conversation could be quite brief: acknowledge what has happened, and say that lots of people have died as a result of a really bad incident. You can say that we don’t know why this has happened.

As the parent or teacher or carer, the most important part is to offer reassurance: this is very unusual, there are lots of safety checks in place to protect us.

Use age-appropriate language, and be aware of what your child understands: do they really know what “died” means? It’s usually not until the age of 5 or 6 that children understand that death is permanent.

With primary school, the majority will understand what “dead” means. So it may be that you can add details - you may be able to sit down and watch the 6 o’clock news together.
The perpetrators

You should talk about a bad action or behaviour - not bad people. Ms Allen explains: “A lot of our work is with families bereaved through murder.

With children, you must be careful about the language: people aren’t bad - it’s something bad that they’ve done - this helps prevent anxiety in children, and fears that ‘bad people’ are coming to get them.”

Social Media Awareness

Secondary school aged children will have come across news about the attacks already on social media. Remind them that some of the things they have read there may be incorrect. Have a conversation with your child about what they think has happened.

Talk about the images they’ve seen - these can be more powerful than words.

If they see an image, and haven’t had a conversation with someone they trust, they will build up these images something that is so big that it’s unmanageable for them; you don’t want a child to start fantasising that someone is going to come after them.
Promote peace

When I have spoken to my children, who are primary and pre-school age, about previous terror attacks, I've tried to shift their focus towards the coming together people in the aftermath, and the work people around the world to keep everyone safe.

Shield them
This hysteria is exactly what the people carrying out these acts want. And it is exactly this sort of hysteria that we, as parents, need to protect our children from. Instead, this is the sentiment we need to spread: that the majority of the world wants peace.

KEY POINTS
  • This story is upsetting for children because they can imagine something like this happening to them or someone close to them.
  • The next few days might be more difficult as images of people grieving will be shown on the television, which can be upsetting for children and might trigger more questions.
  • It is very unusual that something like this happens. This is one of the reasons why it is on the news and lots of people are talking about it; it is also because it is very upsetting that something like this could happen.
  • Children find the idea of bad people particularly frightening. Children are also very fair-minded and will want reassurance that the person who did this has been caught by the police and will be punished.
  • This can be an opportunity to help young people develop their empathy and reflect on the value of life and relationships.

What if they ask why it happened?
If the children want to know ‘why?’ you could say something like:

‘No-one can completely know why. We know it wasn’t an accident. It’s so, so difficult to understand why anyone would be so cruel as to kill other people.’

If your children are scared they or you will die.
Try to answer with some solid reassurance, such as: "We don’t expect anything like this will ever happen here.

"If one of us died for any reason, you would always be looked after by ­­­­­­______ (the other parent/aunt/uncle/granny/family friend). I don’t expect to die for a long time yet’.

May the beautiful beings who lost their precious lives yesterday, rest in peace.





Progressive Education Competition


We at Buddy Bench  strive to become the leaders in progressive education here in Ireland,  social and emotional skills being key.

Emphasis on learning by doing – hands-on projects, expeditionary learning.
An integrated curriculum.
Strong emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking.
Selection of subject content by looking forward to ask what skills will be needed in future society.
Education for social responsibility and democracy.
Emphasis on lifelong learning and social skills.

In September 2017 we are running a nationwide competition to highlight  those hundreds of primary schools who intend to or are running amazing initiatives. We want to hear what your school is doing about being active, being aware of  mental health, keeping safe online and in general being a school that is conscious of progressive education with the element of social and emotional learning.

There is an amazing prize (sorry not disclosure yet), so if you think your school is forward thinking, child led and has support from parents, parents association's, teachers and an inspirational principals, do let us know about them..............

Email hello@buddybench.ie or comment below with a very short description of who is your school and what initiatives they are doing.

Thank You For Now.

Buddy Bench Aware Programme 7yrs - 9yrs

Buddy Bench Ireland
Churchhill NS Kilkenn




Buddy Bench Aware 7yrs - 9yrs

The school environment can be very stressful; in addition to any issues children bring from home, many struggle with a sense of their own difference and start to feel pressure to perform well in class.

Exclusion, isolation or fears of being left behind are very painful for any child, so we have built our Buddy Bench Aware Program around teaching self-awareness, friendship, empathy and self-expression, using the Buddy Bench as a visual aid.


The Workshop

"Look Up, Look Around and Look Out for Each Other”

Buddy Bench Ireland


Emotions v Feelings

What do emotions feel like and look like?
How can you tell what you’re feeling?

All people have feelings. Feelings help us learn about ourselves and others. All emotions are natural, so kids shouldn’t feel bad about experiencing them.

Through role play, our teaching story, discussion and self-awareness exercises, our facilitators help children reflect on their emotions, which sometimes feel overwhelming, and give simple tools for changing their relationship to their feelings.  We teach them to cultivate a kinder attitude to themselves and each other, demonstrating differences in body language, and cultivating skills for mutually supportive communication.

Buddy Bench Ireland
Learning to strengthen attention and regulate emotions are foundational skills that could benefit children in school and throughout their whole lives.


Each child receives a copy of our beautifully illustrated interactive workbook featuring teaching story and creative activities that give opportunities for developing a vocabulary around feelings, and a positive attitude about asking for help.

You can read along and join in the questions too!

The feedback from our programmes is very promising – we are currently completing an evaluation with the Mental Health Social Research Unit at NUI Maynooth. According to teachers’ ratings, children show more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they feel upset. Their social and emotional development has improved, the children showed improvement in the ability to think flexibly, and had cultivated the life skills that have been linked to health and success in later life.

Buddy Bench Ireland
You are our Heros
Combined with the Buddy Bench as a visual tool in times of distress, the children were able to find comfort and support through each other rather than feeling upset and worried. It’s these small changes, spread across classrooms, that could make society more kind—and educate a new generation of more compassionate and connected adults.



To book us to come to your school and deliver any of our programmes email:hello@buddybench.ie
or call us on (0560 7702027


You are a Hero Programme 10yrs - 12+yrs


buddy bench ireland
Happy Hub Cork City


You are a Hero Age 10yrs - 12+yrs

The school environment can be stressful; in addition to any issues children bring from home, as children grow older they become extremely sensitive to their place in peer groups. At the same time, a greater awareness of the larger world around them can cause children to become vulnerable to anxiety. 

At this age, friendships are key to a child’s self image, and the responsibility of becoming a role model to younger children in the school can bring out the best in the senior classes in a school.

The Workshop
You are a Hero!
Friendship: How can you be a good friend to others? 


You can’t be there for others if you don’t take care of yourself first!

Children are extraordinarily observant, and as they move outward into the world they want to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and that of other people, animals, the environment and so on.

Through discussion and role-play we introduce the idea that a real hero has self-awareness, can understand their own feelings and cultivate positive habits of thought, cares for their own mental health, knows their own strengths and develops skills to match, asks friends how they are doing, and knows how to listen well.
The You are a Hero! Activity Book gives tools for personal and social resilience, and invites children to become members of our Hero Club, ambassadors for friendship and self-fulfilment as they move towards adolescence.

"There is a page in the back of this workbook we ask the children to fill in and send back to us to receive their You are a Hero badge and a to be chance of winning a bigger prize, this can be done on an individual basis or as a class project. We want to hear the children's' voices we need their feedback."

The feedback from our programmes is very promising – we are currently completing an evaluation with the Mental Health Social Research Unit at NUI Maynooth. According to teachers’ ratings, children show more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they feel upset. Their social and emotional development has improved, the children showed improvement in the ability to think flexibly, and had cultivated the life skills that have been linked to health and success in later life.

Combined with the Buddy Bench as a visual tool in times of distress, the children were able to find comfort and support through each other rather than feeling upset and worried. It’s these small changes, spread across classrooms, that could make society more kind—and educate a new generation of more compassionate and connected adults.

In this workshop we ask that there be a small number of pre-chosen Buddy Ambassadors chosen from 6th class approx. 2 per hundred other students in the school., they can alternate.  Their role will be to look after the younger children and monitor the Buddy Bench is being used correctly (within reason). Through our own internal evaluation we have found the more responsibility the children are given the better the outcomes.

To book us to come to your school and deliver any of our programmes email: hello@buddybench.ie
or call us on (0560 7702027