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Play on The Brain Workshops

February 23, 2015

We have 13 great workshops for you to choose from this year at our Annual Conference. Due to feedback from last year’s Conference we have one more workshop and one less speaker. That means you will get to go to two of these great workshops during the day instead of one. We hope you can make it and look forward to seeing you there!



Workshop 1: From Language to Literacy

One of a child’s single most important and impressive achievements is the development of oral language.  They are born with an inbuilt desire and ability to communicate with those around them.   Their understanding of how language works will underpin their ability to develop literacy skills.  This development occurs naturally with some children while others need to be coached through the process.  This workshop looks at the stages of the literacy continuum and identifies playful strategies that promote oral skills which in turn, support children to become better readers later on.  

Facilitator: Annette J. Kearns

Annette J. Kearns is an Early Childhood Specialist and Aistear and Síolta mentor with Early Childhood Ireland. Her experience ranges from owning/managing her own service, delivering training at all levels including the BA in Early Childhood Teaching and Learning and mentoring services on both the formal Síolta Programme and the Aistear programme in Co’s. Meath, Louth and Westmeath.  Annette has an MSc in Education and Training Management and has recently completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Special Educational Needs and Inclusion where she took the opportunity to research her long time interest in supporting early language and literacy development.



Workshop 2: Developing the Brain Outdoors

This workshop will cover the affordances of the outdoor for developing brain and body muscles. It will look at how loose parts and natural materials can enrich a play space and contribute to making great opportunities for children to create, construct and connect the body and brain.

Facilitator: Carol Duffy

Carol Duffy is an Early Years Specialist and Siolta Mentor with Early Childhood Ireland. She has a particular interest in outdoor play and children’s connection to the natural world and vast experience in advising early years settings on the development of outdoor spaces.  She is presently completing her MA thesis on outdoor play.



Workshop 3: Planning for Indoor Play Spaces

(How to organise your indoor environment to provide children with a wide range of play possibilities.)

This workshop will draw on real exemplars of changes made by early childhood educators, to guide you in developing good interest areas, incorporating Síolta Standard 2 on Environments and the good practice guidelines from Aistear.

Facilitator: Debbie Mullen

Debbie Mullen is an Early Childhood Specialist and Siolta Mentor with Early Childhood Ireland. She has worked in the early year’s field for over 20 plus years. Her experience ranges from working in a service to owning/managing her own service. She completed an MA in Integrated Services for Children and Families at the University of Leicester / Pen Green. As part of her work with Early Childhood Ireland, she has delivered the Siolta Quality Assurance Programme and is currently mentoring and supporting services through the Aistear in Action Programme.



Workshop 4: Working with the under 3’s

This workshop focuses on the youngest children in our services.  Research clearly tells us that these are the most important years – the years when the brain develops and makes connections at its fastest.  This workshop will outline specific activities to engage children under 3 to support brain development and positive interactions.

Facilitator: Fiona Kelleher

Fiona works with Early Childhood Ireland and has a degree in early childhood care and education and extensive experience of working with the under 3’s in early education services.  Fiona has a particular interest in this age group and has been leading Early Childhood Ireland’s work in this area. She has delivered the Northamptonshire Baby Room Project workshops in several parts of Ireland.  Fiona is also working with full and part services in delivering the Aistear in Action programme.



Workshop 5: ‘Tuning-in’ to children during their play episodes

This workshop will focus on ‘tuning-in’ to children during their play episodes. It will use video clips of children’s play and demonstrate how watching children’s play very carefully can give us greater insights into what young children are thinking and what we can find out through their play. The workshop will highlight the value of actively ‘tuning-in’ to children’s play and how this can be used to further support children’s development through play.

Facilitator: Kathleen Tuite

Kathleen Tuite is an early childhood specialist with Early Childhood Ireland, she holds an honours degree in Early Childhood Care and Education, with a post-grad diploma in Early Childhood Studies and is currently completing her Masters in Early Childhood Education.  Kathleen has worked directly with children for over 10 years and now provides advice and mentoring to early years’ services in the South East through Aistear in Action and Siolta Programmes. Kathleen has a great interest in exploring children’s play and capturing their emerging interests and has delivered many workshops throughout the south east on documenting the curriculum.



Workshop 6: You Matter!

(Supporting learning and development through interactions)

Aistear states that “Relationships at the heart of early learning and development, (NCCCA, 2009, P. 23). Using video clips of every day early years situations with babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers this workshop will analysis interaction moments step by step to identify:

  • When educators can support children’s learning and development 
  • What educators can do to support this learning and development
  • Why educators interactions  are so important to children learning and development


This workshop offers us the luxury of slowing down everyday interactions through video analysis in order to see the huge impact we as educators have on individual children in our care. We will clearly see some of the strategies and methods identified in Aistear’s guidelines for good practice, (Learning and development through Interactions) modelled in these video clips. This workshop will reinforce how vital our role as an early years educator is to children’s development and will highlight the importance of why we do what we do on a daily basis.  

Facilitator: Lilian Joyce

Lilian Joyce is an early childhood specialist working in Early Childhood Ireland. Her work includes mentoring early years educators through the formal Síolta Quality Assurance programme and  supporting early years settings to implement Aistear through Early Childhood Ireland’s Aistear in Action programme. Lilian is also a qualified Marte Meo colleague trainer who is committed to sharing the powerful message the Marte Meo approach brings to the work of early years educators.   



Workshop 7: Musical Workshop

This workshop will give childcare professionals a gentle introduction to some early year’s pedagogical based skills and ideas that can be used in daily play. Aiming to create a meaningful opportunity to explore and create original and practical musical encounters for young children. It is hoped that this short interaction will be the first step in a more confident sharing of ideas and positive practice. Childcare professionals will be encouraged to use their voice and imagination. In doing so, they will achieve a natural consideration of little voices and how best to respond openly and musically.


  • A peek at age appropriate musical activities and songs for the 3-5s
  • Age appropriate songwriting and composition
  • Creating musical games and activities
  • A sharing of ideas and positive practice  

Facilitator: Julie Tiernan

From Bunratty in Co.Clare, Julie Tiernan carried out her MA in Community Music at the University of Limerick in 2000. Her work is grounded in a practical and academic context and has provided a platform for many diverse, creative and long term projects. She has worked at the University of Limerick for 10 years as a guest lecturer and as a Course Director for an access based Certificate in Music and Dance, as well as directing the Nomad project. She has taught on various music programmes at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, Mary Immaculate College, St.Pat’s Drumcondra as well as being an online lecturer with Bostin University. Julie also holds a BA in Irish Heritage Studies as well as Diploma in Digital Music. A founding member of the Society for Music Education in Ireland, she is the webmaster with the group since 2011.   Paulo Freire’s philosophies of shared and student centred learning have always been central to her work as a community musician and she uses this philosophical framework to guide her investigation as to how others in the field of Community Music approach their daily practice.

As a community musician Julie’s work has taken her all over the world. She has worked in Australia, North America, England, The Republic and North of Ireland in a range of community settings. This includes work with ethnic minorities, victims of violence, mental health programmes, early year’s settings, young mothers, disability, prisoners and young offenders. She has extensive experience in working with the Traveller community, early year’s settings and young offenders.A folk and traditional guitarist and singer songwriter, Julie has played across Europe and North America. 

Julie’s current projects include rolling out and devising MGC’s Early Year’s programme, as well a song- writing project funded by MGC. She also leads a group in collaborative song each week in association with Metal Health Arts and the HSE. 



Workshop 8: ReCreate Workshop

Deirdre Rogers is an artist with over 15 years’ experience working creatively with adults and children, and her work with ReCreate, the Design Crafts Council of Ireland, Meath, Fingal and Dublin City Arts Councils, has strengthened her interest in integrating creative practice in the classroom.

Facilitators: Deirdre Rogers and Louise Osborne

Louise Osborne is an international visual artist, facilitator and educator with experience developing arts programmes for children, youth and adults in Ireland and the UK.

Deirdre and Louise are working with ReCreate on the development and implementation of their new project the “ReCreate Revolution”. Promoting “Make Art not Waste”, this project will see over 100 free workshops and over 500 creative reuse toolkits delivered to groups across the country.

Their workshop will demonstrate a selection of activities that promote Creative Reuse and compliment the themes and principles of Aistear. The workshop will be tactile and ‘hands-on’, enforcing visual learning, decision-making, inventiveness and problem solving. They will encourage communication and the development of motor skills which are an integral part of the learning process.


Workshop 9: Storytelling Yoga for Children

This workshop will give the attendees a fun, innovative tool to add to their day. A yoga storytelling session follows the same structure as a yoga class. Like a book it has a beginning middle and end and children are taken on a journey from warmups to relaxation. Attendees will be given strategies for this unique way to give children physical activity as well as relaxation and breathing techniques – all the ingredients for a happy balanced child.

Facilitator: Nicola Foxe

Nicola Foxe is a fully qualified yoga instructor, specialising in youth and early childhood yoga. After completing her yoga training in India, Nicola came home to Ireland and worked in both crèches and as a registered childminder and now teaches yoga to children of all ages and abilities in the Dublin and Wicklow area. With experience of working in Thai kindergartens, Nicola learned quickly how to communicate with children through non-verbal methods. Bringing all her skills and experience together, Nicola also offers ‘yoga through storytelling’ sessions in libraries around Dublin and at the Dublin Book Festival.



Workshop 10: Addressing Fundamental Movement Skill Development

Rationale: Fundamental movement skills are the basic skills of everyday movement and include running, hopping, catching, throwing, balance and coordination. Without practice these skills are often delayed and prohibit children’s’ participation in quality physical activity and sport specific skills as children develop. Subsequently, these children are then at risk of developing health related problems that can affect their daily lives i.e. obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Research indicates that early intervention and practice are key to developing FMS in preschool and primary school children.

Aim: To provide delegates with an opportunity to engage with FMS development in an active hands on workshop which is replicable in the work place setting.


  1. Explore the basic principles of FMS development for preschool/primary school children.
  2. Plan age/ability appropriate programmes to enhance movement skill development.
  3. Implement and evaluate FMS programmes.


Facilitators: Sports Studies and Physical Education degree programme in University College Cork

This workshop will be presented by undergraduate students of the Batchelor of Education Sports Studies and Physical Education degree programme in University College Cork.  These students are Rachel O’Halloran, Patrick O’Leary, Micheal O’Se, Grainne O’Sullivan, Niamh Rockett, Casey May Stanley and Sarah Sullivan.  The students are supervised by Dr Susan Crawford Module Co-ordinator.



Workshop 11: The Language of Food

Inspired by Malaguzzi`s hundred languages of children ,this interactive workshop will consider the important holistic learning opportunities afforded to young children through the  dining experiences in early childhood care and education  settings. Inspired by the approach to dining in the infant toddler centres and preschools of Reggio Emilia participants will have an opportunity to view video footage of family style dining experiences in Early Childhood Care and Education settings in Ireland and in the infant toddler centres and preschools of Reggio Emilia. The workshop will offer an opportunity to discuss and reflect on the importance of quality dining experiences for young children and will showcase the new Early Childhood Ireland /safe Food initiative: Little Bites; a food and nutrition information hub for the Early Childhood Care and Education sector.

Facilitator: Rita Melia

Rita Melia is programme manager with Early Childhood Ireland; she has a wealth of experience in the early childhood care and education sector in research, policy and practice. Rita has a particular interest in the approach to early childhood care and education in the infant toddler centres and preschools of Reggio Emilia and represents Early Childhood Ireland as the Reggio Children International Partner for Ireland. Rita is currently a Doctoral student in UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre NUIGalway   and has been awarded an Irish Research Council scholarship for her research which is looking at the early childhood educator’s image of the preschool child.



Workshop 12: Bizzy Break Workshop – fun activity for all!

Come along and find out how to deliver a short, fun physical activity session for yourself and the children! Bizzy Break takes less than 10 minutes and incorporates three types of activity; looseners, huffers and stretchers! It can be used in your service as a wakener, a reviver or a warm-up. This simple, on-the-spot session, is guided by a poster and leaders notes which can be easily followed by everyone involved.

Facilitator: The Irish Heart Foundation

The Irish Heart Foundation is the national charity fighting heart disease and stroke, and combined these disease are the leading cause of death.  For many years the Foundation has been providing resources and training to get more pupils in schools more active. The Foundation has partnered with Early Childhood Ireland and adapted one of its most popular physical activity resources Bizzy Break used in primary schools for use in the pre-school setting.



Workshop 13: Business Exit Strategy and Pension Provision for you and your Staff  

Experts in this field from BHP Insurance Brokers Ltd will consider the following key areas in relation to your business : succession planning, inheritance tax planning, retirement planning for owners and staff, maximising tax relief, benefit options at retirement, compliance and updates on recent changes to the State pension and future pension provision.


Download the full Conference Brochure here



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