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 kindness, 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 that 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.””
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.
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.
- A Little Buddy Bench
- Resource information pack for staff with 5 weeks of resources and a learning path to follow on from the workshop.
- Mp3 Child’s Meditation
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.
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.
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.