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Starting in the Naíonra

Starting in the naíonra is a big change and very important milestone in the life of a child. He or she has to become accustomed to a new place, a new teacher, a new routine and new friends. The first few weeks in the naíonra are very important. Getting off to a good start will help your child to be comfortable, at ease and happy in the naíonra in the long term.

With a little bit of preparation and encouragement from you, they’ll quickly settle in. Here are some tips for parents who have little to no Irish themselves:

Be enthusiastic

Show your child that you are looking forward to them starting in the naíonra. This will help them to be excited about what’s ahead of them. Be confident in your decision to choose a naíonra for your child and remind yourself of the reasons that you chose this particular naíonra for them.

Talk together

It’s very important to talk positively to your child about the naíonra and what will happen when they start there. This will give them the opportunity to tell you what they’re looking forward to or what they might be worried about.

Focus on the exciting things in the naíonra: new friends, playful activities, stories, songs and new games. The naíonra often has an information leaflet that outlines the different activities taking place from day to day. This will help your child to know what to expect each day and to know when they will be going home.

The first day

The naíonra will have a settling-in policy to help your child to adjust to the change. Make sure that you understand fully what is involved and familiarise yourself with the procedures the naíonra has put in place. The children are often allowed to bring their favourite toy or teddy, a special photograph, or a blanket to the naíonra. Familair items like these help them to settle in and to feel more comfortable.

On the first day, it is important that your child wears comfortable clothes so that they can play and move around easily – choose clothing that you wouldn’t mind getting covered in paint, glitter, sand or mud. Make sure to arrive at the naíonra early so that you’re at a relaxed pace walking in for the first time. Parents are allowed to stay in the naíonra for a certain period of time on this day. Explain this to your child beforehand and tell them that you will be leaving for a while. Don’t forget to say goodbye to your child when you are leaving and to let them know what time you will be back. It’s recommended that parents don’t leave the naíonra without saying goodbye to their children as it can be upsetting for them.

Of course, every child is different and it will take some less time than others to settle in. Some children settle in straight away and are excited at the idea of returning the next day. However, it can take some children a little longer to settle and this is also completely natural. Be patient and speak with the teacher in the naíonra if you have any worries about this. Your child will be tired after their first day in a new environment and there is a chance they may need some extra sleep and more rest than normal at the end of the day.

Read together

The very best thing you can do for your child to prepare them for going to the naíonra is to read to them, and foster a love of books and reading. Picture books are a great way to encourage conversation about anything. Read in your home language, or if you have a cúpla focal, try reading a simple book in Irish with them. Make an adventure of it, take a trip to the library together and allow your child to choose a book for you to read.

Here is a selection of books that are a great starting point for young children. Perhaps your child would like to start with one or two before that end of the summer break and continue reading throughout the year: Ainmhithe sa Teas, An Coileach Codlatach, An Gabhar a Raibh An-Ocras Go Deo Air, An Garbhán, Bíonn Carló ag Léamh, Bronntanas do Mhamaí, Cá bhfuil Teidí?, Cáca don Rí, Caitlín agus Cormac: An Chóisir, Dónall an Chlúimh Agus An-Ocras Air!, Is Breá le Lúlú an Leabharlann, Lísín – Ní Banphrionsa Mé!, Oisín ar an bPota, Ruairí agus Úna sa Naíonra, and Ulchabháin Óga. There is a wider selection available from Siopa Leabhar, Cló Iar Chonnacht, Futa Fata, Údar.ie as well as other book suppliers.

Play together

Your child will learn many new things through the play method in the naíonra. If they can meet up and play with other children, this will help them get used to sharing toys and swapping with one another. Playing helps them to develop motor, communication, creative and inquisitive skills and gain new understandings of the world around them.

There are many ways you can play through Irish at home, even if Irish isn’t the language you usually use at home. You can listen to verses or songs in Irish together, look at programmes for children on TG4 or at fun videos on line, play games in Irish and attend events for families with Irish. There are lots of options, and your child will learn without realising it and will gradually build their vocabulary, literacy and language skills.

Gaeloideachas also have a playlist of songs that you could play at home: Gaeloideachas Playlist

Look for company

A lovely way to meet other families with Irish is attending a PopUp Gaeltacht na nÓg or other events run by Irish-language organisations around the country – these include Glór na nGael, Gael Taca, Tuismitheoirí na Gaeltachta, Muintearas and An Carn. Your child will see that there are plenty of other people around who speak Irish.

Remember that the teachers and staff in the naíonra have lots of experience of the settling-in process each year. Your child will be well looked after and every effort will be made to help them to settle in as quickly as possible. Make sure to discuss any of your concerns with the teacher in the naíonra and if you have any queries about immersion education or Irish-medium education in general, you can contact Gaeloideachas on 01 8535195 or eolas@gaeloideachas.ie. Best of luck!

Online resources

There are parent-focused resources available on the site IrishforParents.ie. There is vocabulary based on relevant topics, videos and many other helpful resources for independent learning online.

Déan Comhrá is a booklet aimed at those trying to use more Irish in the home and is full of practical phrases and glossaries. The booklet is split into themes: school subjects, the family, the home, etc. There are also some useful phrases that will help you when writing a note to the teacher in the naíonra.

Foclóir.ie is a very useful resource in searching for the Irish translation of words and phrases, listening to word pronunciation and answering your grammar questions. You can also install the app on your phone. Téarma.ie is also useful, especially for more technical terminology.