Relaxing with Birdie builds resilience in local kids
Published: 14 April 2021
Townsville kindy kids will stretch out the sad and dive into downward dogs this month as part of the Townsville Disaster Recovery team’s Relaxing with Birdie initiative.
Disaster Recovery team leader Marissa Laycock said the team would visit early learning centres with children’s book Relaxing with Birdie, which teaches children to calm down, relax and sleep, even in worrying times.
“We are offering these visits as part of our disaster recovery work following the 2019 floods in Townsville,” she said.
“We know that living in North Queensland means severe weather events will be part of life and Relaxing with Birdie teaches children practical, physical ways to de-stress.
“This story about Birdie and Mr Frog guides children through a sequence of moves designed to calm down their nervous system by connecting body, breath and emotions.
“Movements include lying flat and focussing on breathing, standing tall like a tree and stretching like a warrior. These activities encourage emotions such as feeling strong, hopeful and calm.”
Marissa said while taking children through the book, the team would be supporting early childhood educators to build their skills in working with the Birdie’s Tree resources.
“Birdie’s Tree was created by Children’s Health Queensland’s Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, to help children work through scary experiences and ‘big feelings’,” Marissa said.
“It includes a series of storybooks in which Birdie and Mr Frog encounter cyclones, fires, drought and, most recently, a pandemic.
“This is a really exciting body of work which will embed and sustain support for infants and young children in our region.
Relaxing with Birdie co-author Dr Andrea Baldwin and service development leader at the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health said she expected the book to be popular across Townsville early learning centres.
“More and more early learning centres are becoming aware of the benefits of mindfulness and relaxation to help young children calm down, ground themselves and get in touch with how they’re feeling.
“Relaxing with Birdie was released at the end of 2020 and is being used around the world.
“It’s available online as an animation, so parents and educators can use it without needing a printed book.
“The storybook Birdie and the Flood has been very well-received in Townsville and Relaxing with Birdie is a new tool in the suite of Birdie’s Tree resources, which includes games for children and information for parents along with the Birdie books.”
Marissa said Relaxing with Birdie would be rolled out to other early learning centres in the coming months.
“We are eager to provide this new resource to as many local early learning centres as possible,” she said.
“The Birdie books, including Relaxing with Birdie, are another tool for educators to use to help children cope with feelings of anxiety, sadness and stress, and recover their sense of calm and safety.
“In the long run, it’s all about building resilient kids.”
Federal Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson said helping children be more resilient amidst natural disasters was a priority.
“Late last year we announced $2 million for preventative mental health programs aimed at children so I’m looking forward to seeing more programs like this roll out in our region,” Mr Thompson said.
“My own daughters are getting to an age where a flood or a cyclone could be distressing so it’s great to know that there are initiatives that will help them and other children make sense of what’s going on.”
The Townsville Disaster Recovery team is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).
More information about the Birdie’s Tree resources can be found here: https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/natural-disaster-recovery/
Welcome to Birdie’s Tree!
Natural disasters like storms, cyclones, floods or fire can be very frightening and upsetting for babies and young children.
Playing a therapeutic game or reading a story with a caring adult can help a young child work through the scary experiences and ‘big feelings’. There’s information for parents and carers too.