Little Buddies Early Years Transition to Primary School

Little Buddies Early Years transition to Primary School is an evidence based child-led, positive mental health program that is innovative, original and engaging. The Little Buddies program promotes emotional resilience and mental wellbeing through supporting the core competencies of empathy, creativity, self-awareness and communication. This program has been developed to help young children along the transition from early years into primary school. Making the link to primary school is vital.

One parent’s feedback regarding their child and the Buddy Bench was;
Parent said their child understood the concept of the Buddy Bench as his cousin who was 7 was starting at a new school and was scared. The boy said to his Mam ’I hope they have Buddy Bench in their new school cos she can sit on the Bench and if people see her sad they will come and sit with her and she will make friends”

The programme has undergone a positive preliminary evaluation by researchers in Centre for Mental Health and Community Research, Maynooth University Department of Psychology, a full evaluation has now begun (funded by Irish Research Council) in order to provide proof of its effectiveness.

“(3) Can you name one difference that the Buddy Bench has made to your school?”(n=98)

“Everyone will have a buddy.”
“Children are happier.”
“We are all kinder.”
“I think the school is very happy.”
“ It made our school the best.”
“Everyone is playing together.””

Little Buddies program

​In summary, the programme consists of:

1.)A 45 min interactive workshop with role play, games and discussion.

2). A copy of their own interactive workbook to use in pre-school and at home.

3).Individual self tools around emotional wellness.

Young children take delight in the story in the workbook, told with the help of our four furry animal friends who interact with a bench and a child. Each animal represents a thought, a feeling or an emotion and we discuss how to recognise and cope. It is open ended story allowing free will of the children’s imagination.

  • Kin the thoughtful and clever fox.
  • Elfe the very emotional and caring squirrel.
  • Red the robin who is so courageous and just loves his nest.
  • Neeke the monkey who is very different and so very very proud of the fact.

This workshop will be centered around “Sam Builds A Nest” a care box for Courage and Resilience. Teaching children about change, transition and courage. Your setting will receive a:

1) Sam Builds A Nest Care Box for Courage and Resilience.
2) A Little Buddy Bench
3) Resource information pack for staff with 5 weeks of resources and a learning path to follow on from the workshop.
4)Mp3 Child’s Meditation to accompany Sam Builds a Nest

Our team of qualified and experienced leaders come to your pre-school and delivers the Little Buddies workshop to each class. The cost of the workshop is €10 per child.

The Buddy Bench

We use the Buddy Bench as a symbolic visual tool to teach them how to identify and express their feelings.  The program releases the stigma of asking for help and celebrates children who act with compassion, kindness and empathy.We can deliver a Buddy Bench on the same day as the workshop. Our lovely friends in the Men’s Sheds make the Little Buddies Benches for us at a cost of €90 each.

little buddies
Buddy Bench Ireland's children's book

Parents Resource

We have come to understand that sometimes the hardest thing for a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or caring grownup, is to have to stand in the wings while the children they love tackle the challenges of growing up without us, which is why we have developed “Sam Builds A Nest Care Box” that provide tools and insight for grownups to explore mental wellbeing issues with the children they love. This is a story of how a young child learns that your safe place – whether that is at home or in your room, in a den or wrapped in the arms of someone you love – is just like a nest:

Here’s how it works:

Give the gift:  The pack comes in a beautifully designed box that slowly reveals Red the robin (snugly toy), and opens out to present interactive learning activities.

Spend the time: Sit together, snuggle Red the Robin, and read the story of how Sam Builds a Nest.

Watch, listen and learn: Encourage the child to build their nest. Take time to listen to what they are telling you about the challenges they are facing in their lives.

Help and join in: Encourage your child to colour in the nest picture and think about all the people, places, things and pastimes that make them feel safe.

Create a new routine:  Take time together to use the worry pad – write down all the things that make the child feel anxious or afraid, fold up the page, and tuck under the Robin’s wing for a peaceful night’s sleep.

This is Care Box is available to pre-order in your Early Years Setting for €20 or online at https://www.buddybench.ie/shop/

A Whole-pre-school Approach

Evidence tells us that good mental health is essential for children to learn and achieve. By providing opportunities for young children, and the adults surrounding them, to develop the strengths and coping skills that underpin resilience early years settings can help their children (and staff) flourish and succeed.

​To be effective the ethos of whole-pre-school, positive mental health should be a thread running through a pre-pre-school’s values and mission statement and be prominent across policies, procedures and practices, in line with national curriculum frameworks such as Siolta http://siolta.ie/and Aistear.

little buddies

What is a whole-pre-school approach?

A whole-pre-school approach is about developing a positive ethos and culture – where everyone feels that they belong. It involves working with families and making sure that the whole pre-school community is welcoming, inclusive and respectful. It means maximising children’s learning through promoting good mental health and well-being across the pre-school – through the curriculum, early support for children, staff-child relationships, leadership and a commitment from everybody.

Whole-pre-school approaches involve a pre-school leadership team. that:

  • Understands the links between mental health and achievement.
  • Champions and supports mental health and well-being for children and staff, strategically.
  • It relies on a staff team committed to helping all children develop the essential social and emotional skills they need to cope effectively with setbacks and remain healthy, through:
  • Whole-pre-school and targeted, small group curriculum activity and through strengthening broader protective factors which promote children’s resilience and reduce risk factors both in the family, at pre-school and more broadly in the community.
  • Day-to-day contact and building healthy and strong protective relationships with children and families.
  • Adopting a whole-pre-school approach to mental health and wellbeing is a process, not a one-off activity. To describe a pre-school as ‘mentally healthy’ involves both planning and ongoing evaluation:
  • Identifying and building on the strengths and good practice that already exist which contribute to good mental health in the pre-school.
  • Identifying external support and understanding how you might best use, build relationships with, and influence what is available outside the pre-school. (AIM for example)
  • Consulting with children, staff, parents and carers so that everyone feels committed to positive pre-school mental health and wellbeing.
  • Making sure that the mental health and wellbeing of all pre-school staff and of parents/carers is as important as that of the children, and that staff model a positive approach to mental health and wellbeing.
  • Encouraging openness in talking about mental health and challenging negative attitudes.
  • Enhancing children’ and staff knowledge about how to maintain good mental health and wellbeing.
  • Playing a key part in identifying emerging mental health needs of children by making sure staff can recognise signs and symptoms of mental health needs and know what to do should they have a concern.
  • Referring children who need additional help onto health professionals for appropriate specialist support and treatment.
  • Having a clear process to follow where a concern is raised about a pupil’s mental health and developing links with specialist mental health services and other local and national support.
  • Making sure that children and adults are protected by policies, values and attitudes (including behaviour, bullying, safeguarding) and feel safe in the pre-school environment and in the wider community.
  • Ensuring that what is provided in pre-school dovetails with the particular needs of your children and families.
  • Measuring the impact of what you do to promote and support children’s mental health in pre-school.