Principles of DevelopmentZippy's Friends differs from many programmes for young children.
Firstly, it has been designed to help all children, not just those who have difficulties or who are considered to be at risk. It promotes the mental health and emotional wellbeing of all.
Secondly, it does not teach children that 'this is right' and 'that is wrong'. Teachers do not tell children how to cope in a particular situation. Instead, they encourage them to generate their own solutions and strategies, and to discuss how helpful they might be.
Thirdly, the programme is not competitive. Children are not marked on how they perform. No child comes top or bottom of the class. Instead, children are encouraged to work together, helping each other.
The experts who developed Zippy's Friends followed eight important principles.
1. Children choose their own solutions
Teachers do not judge what is right or wrong, or suggest that specific solutions are the right or wrong ones. Instead, teachers encourage the children to find new and different solutions and to decide amongst themselves which solutions seem best in different circumstances. To choose a helpful solution, children learn to apply two simple rules:
• a solution must help me to feel better
• it must not hurt me or anyone else
2. Positive skills are reinforced
The emphasis is always upon the development of coping abilities and the positive aspects of a child's behaviour. Children are not reprimanded if they suggest inappropriate solutions, but are encouraged to explore the consequenses for themselves and others, and look for better solutions that fit the rules above.
3. Repetition and continuity are essential for learning
Even when coping abilities appear to have been mastered, it is important to repeat what has been learned. It is also important to practise the abilities in a variety of different situations. The programme has activities to provide continuity between sessions. Each session begins with a review of the principal components of the preceding session. The sessions also include activities where children can practise skills in a wide variety of situations so that they will be able to use the skills they have learned in new and increasingly complex situations.
Evaluation of the programme has shown that, even if teachers become bored with repetition, the children do not! It is crucial that teachers do not skip parts of the sessions. To achieve its goals, the programme must be taught in its entirety.
4. Abilities are developed in different settings
According to the model of human development which is a basis for this programme, children continually adapt to different environments and situations, at home, at school and in leisure activities with others.
Zippy's Friends tries to draw from as many familiar environments and situations as possible, so that the skills the children practise will be generalised as much as possible to different environments and situations.
5. Children participate
Zippy's Friends involves active participation of children in a variety of activities. From a child's point of view, active participation includes mental activity, being and feeling involved, enjoying the activity and anticipating future activities. It is crucial that the children themselves generate the ideas and solutions, rather than the teacher.
Mental activity in young children is closely related to physical activity. Children should be involved in a variety of activities, even very simple ones such as colouring, cutting, pasting things, selecting objects, moving objects, saying things, clapping, etc.
The programme is based upon a series of activities in which children interact and participate in role-play activities which are based upon situations they may encounter. This interactive context is an important aspect of the programme.
6. Children help each other
Collaboration and helping each other are important values in the Zippy's Friends programme. Children are encouraged to help each other and suggest alternative solutions. Encouraging children to offer help and accept help is an important step in coping successfully. For example, if a child cannot think of an answer to a question, other children are encouraged to give him or her suggestions.
7. Children evaluate their own success
The activities in this programme develop children's abilities to judge their own success. Children should not need to depend upon the presence of a teacher or adult, or peer approval, in order for them to know if they are successful or have acquired the skills.
8. Teachers are open to listening to children
Zippy's Friends works best when teachers are prepared to let the children talk and offer their own ideas freely. It is important that children discover that they can generate their own solutions, rather then being told what to do. Teachers are often surprised that children as young as five or six are able to discuss profound and serious issues.