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Little Buddies

By: SAMANTHA SYNNOTT

Tuesday 26 March 2019

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 learning and care settings can help their children (and staff) flourish and succeed.

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

A whole-preschool 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 preschool community is welcoming, inclusive and respectful. It means maximising children’s learning through promoting good mental health and well-being across the preschool – through the curriculum, early support for children, staff-child relationships, leadership and a commitment from everybody.

Little Buddies Early Years for Courage and Resilience is a children’s mental health programme that is positive, innovative, original and engaging. The Little Buddies programme promotes emotional resilience and mental well-being through supporting the core competencies of empathy, creativity, self-awareness and communication. 

​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 preschool 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:

  • Kin, the thoughtful 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

 

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. 

This workshop is be centred on “Sam Builds A Nest” a care box for Courage and Resilience which is based on  the interaction between friends Red the Robin and a child called Sam . This interaction teaches children about change, transition and courage.  Friends help children feel safe and we all need kindness to grow. 

 Each setting receives a:

1) Sam Builds A Nest Care Box for Courage and Resilience
2) A Little Buddy Bench
3) Resource information pack for staff

 

The Buddy Bench 

We use the Buddy Bench as a symbolic visual tool to help children to identify and express their feelings.  The programme releases the stigma of asking for help and celebrates children who act with compassion, kindness and empathy. We deliver a Buddy Bench on the same day as the workshop.

The programme has undergone a positive preliminary evaluation by researchers in the National Centre for Mental Health Maynooth University, a full evaluation has now begun (funded by Irish Research Council) in order to provide proof of its effectiveness. Once this formal endorsement is in place, it is ready for national rollout.

 

Bio:

Samantha Synnott

After teaching adults and young people ICT skills for many years, I discovered two of my passions, education and how it can bring about change in people’s lives especially in young people. After my daughter was born, education and the gift of, became even more important, I developed a great interest in social and emotional intelligence.

 In 2013 I attended Waterford Institute of Technology and received a certificate in Digital Marketing & Communications, after which I set up Sm4solutions. Working alongside S.M.E.'s and Start-Ups, providing them with powerful and profitable on-line presence. I advised and managed several different clients’ social media accounts and campaigns. My work ethic has always been forward thinking, customer concentric marketing, analytic, strategic, technically savvy and Innovative.

In 2014 I did a Post-Grad in Innovation, Design Ideation with the Innovation Academy, University College Dublin where I learned the skills of identifying problems and then the solution. At this time due to a personal experience I identified a very obvious void in our Educational system. Alongside my business partner Judith Ashton and a marvellous team, Buddy Bench was formed in April 2016. We have developed school-based child-led positive mental health programmes that promote emotional resilience and mental well-being, through supporting the core competencies of empathy, creativity, self-awareness and communication. Using a brightly coloured bench placed in a school yard as a visual tool.

I believe children deserve the best possible education and should be encouraged towards the highest academic standards they are capable of. However, academic and emotional educations are not mutually exclusive and they are not opposed to one another. They must, crucially, work in tandem if children and young people are to benefit from a truly excellent school experience.

7 comments Comments

7 Responses

  1. Hi Just wondering how do you book these workshops and do ye travel across the country ie cork

  2. Helena Kelly says:

    Grace Murphy, St Kevins FRC Childcare
    Love the concept of this programme, can`t wait to hear more about delivery , cost and timeframe for implementation

  3. Georgina Barry says:

    how would we book the work shops

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