This new 'Little Buddies' programme helps to develop courage in pre-school children

Buddy Bench Ireland has launched a new Little Buddies programme, which aims to develop courage and resilience in children from the age of three.

What is the Little Buddies programme?

The Little Buddies programme has been specifically designed for preschool children who are preparing for their transition to primary school.

Organisers say transitions are a critical time for a child’s growth and development; giving them an opportunity to thrive and grow from change. With the right support behind them, young children can develop resilience, strength and courage that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

The idea came from an exciting collaboration between the Kilkenny Local Community Development Committee, and Buddy Bench, one of Ireland’s fastest growing social enterprises offering learning resources to children for emotional health and wellbeing.

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The ABCs of Little Buddies

During the workshops, Buddy Bench uses puppets, storytelling and song to teach the ABCs:

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.

Body: Children explore what emotion feels like in the body: how to read, recognise and respond to their emotions, and recognise emotions in others.

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’.

How does it work?

The programme is delivered by local psychotherapist Michelle O’Brien, who makes use of storytelling, role-playing and creative activities.

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It's based on Buddy Bench’s new 'CarePack' called Sam Builds a Nest, by Jeffrey Gormly, who says, “Maynooth University’s ongoing evaluation of Buddy Bench programmes shows that children respond to creative experiences." He added how creative experiences help children integrate their learning into their own life; allowing them to better understand who they are and how they relate to others.

Related: How to get your child into a good
bedtime routine

What's more, Michelle says, “Just like the Robin in the story has to stand on the edge of the nest, gather his courage, and take off, so that he can fly high and find his own nest; resilience is about being able to feel your inner strength when you need to go outside your comfort zone." She says the programme helps children take on the challenges of growing into the world and finding their place.

The project, which is funded by Healthy Ireland, will see 24 'Early Years' settings in Kilkenny receive the Little Buddies Program for Courage and Resilience.

Helping thousands of children

Buddy Bench has offered their programs to more than 40,000 children in over 285 schools and preschools throughout Ireland. Not only that, but since it was founded in 2016 by Judith Ashton and Sam Synnott, the company has won awards from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, KBC Better Ireland, Google Adopt-a-Startup and the National Startup Awards.

Co-founder Sam Synnott said, "Children can feel challenged or overwhelmed by all kinds of experiences. Moving to 'big school', moving house, a change in family make-up or bereavement – even just strong emotional feelings – can make us feel as if we are outside our comfort zone. Seeing my daughter go through that is what inspired me to start Buddy Bench, and bring this kind of wisdom and safe support to all children.”

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Sam Builds a Nest is illustrated by Ross Dillon of Cartoon Saloon (sister company Lighthouse Studios), and comes beautifully packaged in a handprinted box. The CarePack is available at The Hub Thomastown, Designist Dublin, and online at buddybench.ie.

For more information or to book a Little Buddies workshop for your Early Years setting, contact [email protected] or call 0567702027. 

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