Two rather cute and colourful wee characters are helping young North Lanarkshire children understand all about well-being.
Sid, a cheeky monkey, and Shanarri, a friendly spider, have lots of stories to tell in eight books of their adventures in The Wellbeing Wood.
However, none of the pre-schoolers who listen so eagerly realise that, while they are being entertained, North Lanarkshire is leading the way in improving awareness and understanding of well-being among pre-five children.
The new learning kit includes cuddly toys, interactive games and eight books and it comes in a handy rucksack, so it can be used between nursery staff, childminders and parents.
The kit, which has been developed by North Lanarkshire’s own Early Years staff, is helping children, along with parents and nursery staff, develop a shared understanding of what is meant by the term “well-being” and the importance it plays in a child’s development.
A pilot project which ran last year involved more than 300 staff, children and families – and it has been such a success that 1500 packs will be rolled out across all of the area’s pre-five establishments and specialist schools.
Early Years officer Vicki Dunn, who was part of the team responsible for its introduction, did all the illustrations.
She said: “We were looking for something that children could relate to.
“We liked the spider because it linked nicely with the well-being web.
“Sid and Shanarri are like the superheroes of the Wellbeing Wood.
“Every day they have a little stroll through the woods to see who they can meet and they come across a little character who needs just a little support with their own wellbeing journey.
“It was a fabulous opportunity for me and the Sid and Shanarri team because we could get down to the child’s level and realy think about how the children could understand their wellbeing needs.”
The toolkit has been much admired and was also warmly welcomed by the Care Inspectorate.
Catherine Branson, from the Care Inspectorate, said: “We were impressed with the interactive nature of the Sid and Shanarri toolkit, particularly because the different elements of the learning tool can be used to engage with groups as well as individual children to develop well-being and resilience.”
The initiative also has the backing of the Scottish Government, as it ties in with the eight well-being indicators which have been established by its GIRFEC model (Getting It Right For Every Child).
Shanarri – the little spider – is actually another acronym standing for each of the Government’s eight well-being indicators: Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included.
Liz Kerr, a nursery teacher at Holy Cross Primary School in Croy, was among those who took part in the pilot.
Featured in a video which explains the project in more detail, she is very enthusiastic about the results that she has seen.
“The bag is perfect for children of this age because it gives them something to hook onto for their learning,” said Liz. “So, we can use it to focus parents’ attention on the health and well-being indicators.
“We have supportive parents who are happy to take on board any advice they get from us. It lets us work with parents on aspects of their child’s learning.
“We always were very good at covering aspects like being safe and being healthy with the children but I’m not sure we always covered being responsible and respected.
“The stories lend themselves to that – it gives us a real focus. But the focus is on fun. Everybody loves it!
“The children and parents are delighted when it’s their turn to get the bag home!”
Isabelle Boyd, assistant chief executive with North Lanarkshire Council, said, “Although the GIRFEC approach is understood by children in primary school, anecdotal research indicated that pre-five children found the concept of well-being difficult to grasp.
“We are delighted at the feedback from the pilot and so many other local authorities have indicated interest in our product.
“The true test of the toolkit’s success is the users themselves, who all say it has quickly developed children’s understanding of well-being.”