The Childhood Development Initiative – Doodle Den Programme



The Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) has developed and evaluated an innovative range of community based prevention and early intervention programmes which aim to improve outcomes for children.

Niamh Flavin, Family Support Worker with Respond was asked to do an interview about the Doodle Den programme running in Enniscorthy, which has been published in the CDI February Newsletter:

Niamh stated:
One of the National Outcomes for parents and children which I aim to encourage is ‘to support people in active learning’.  As part of my work I must identify needs / gaps and then seek programmes support for these needs.

How did you hear about Doodle Den?

There was an identified need on our two estates in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford for literacy support for families. I decided to search online for an evidence based programme that may match this need. I came across the Doodle Den Programme with the CDI.

Why were you interested in it for your target group?

The reason why I became immediately interested in the Doodle Den programme was the fact that there were three components to the programme, a Child, Parent and Family component.

I particularly liked the emphasis that was put on the parent / family and their role in encouraging literacy with their children. In our programme the parents are aware that they are the first and primary educators of their child. As family support worker I am constantly trying to engage parents in parenting programmes etc. As part of the Doodle Den programme most parents automatically attend and enjoy the sessions as they are practical. They see it as helping their child in the Doodle Den.

One of the main reasons why we also became interested was there was a large number of resident children in second infants aged 5-6 years living on our estates so it was a perfect ‘fit’ for the target group we were aiming it at. Some of the target group families may not have had a positive experience with education so we were interested to develop an interest in lifelong learning among this group.

How has Doodle Den been working?

There have been many challenges, but CDI has been very supportive along the way.  There is a very clear manual to follow for the 32 week child component. The planned activities are easy to follow, give clear instructions on how to run each day and the activities are short to avoid any time for the children to get bored, frustrated etc.

I think the reason that Doodle Den works is because children don’t feel like they are in school, they are constantly learning but they don’t even know it.  All activities are literacy focused but are done in a fun, interactive way. We know it’s working because children continue to come!!

What benefits have you seen?

The staff can see many positive changes in the children that attend the Doodle Den programme. The children have improved immensely with their literacy skills, reading, writing, language, oral communication, phonics, sight vocabulary etc.

We can see children who are more confident in themselves, socialising with others, decrease in poor conduct, more willing to try. Children are bringing in copies from home showing us the writing they practiced at home or the book they read last night.

Teachers are commenting to staff and parents about the overall improvement of the child in their school-work, conduct, confidence etc. since starting in the Doodle Den. Parents are feeling more equipped to help their children with their literacy.

What would you say to other groups thinking about using Doodle Den?

If you are thinking about Doodle Den I would highly recommend it. It is a fantastic opportunity for children in senior infants to get support with their literacy. We are seeing many children leaving primary school with extremely poor literacy, we need to break this cycle by entering into an early intervention literacy programme, the younger a child starts to feel confidence and wants to attend school regularly the better outcomes they will have in the future.