Home > General > Zippy’s Friends – helping our children navigate the world of emotions
Young People with Zippy

Zippy’s Friends is an emotional learning programme, developed over the last 10 years and introduced into schools in about 30 countries. It has been well received and fully evaluated.

NCRN has offered training and materials to primary schools in the Walker area of Newcastle. The programme is taught to the children’s class teacher who then implements it in her/his class.



Zippy is a stick insect and his friends are a group of young children. Each story is illustrated by brightly coloured pictures.

  • Over 160 Year 1 and Year 2 children in three Newcastle schools have already taken part.
  • The programme usually runs for 24 weeks, with one 45-minute session each week.
  • It is built around a set of six stories, covering six themes – feelings, communication, making and breaking relationships, conflict resolution, dealing with change and loss, and the overarching theme of coping.

Each session begins with the teacher reading part of the story, and then the children take part in activities such as drawing, discussing and playing games. The aim of these activities is to help the children to explore and understand their feelings and behaviour, and to generate ways of coping with difficult situations.

For detailed info about the programme, see www.partnershipforchildren.org.uk

‘Zippy’s Friends’ was developed by the charity, Partnership for Children

Zippy at Home

This involves parents of “Zippy” children, to think about how they might be able to use it with their children at home.

In collaboration with Partnership for Children, we have developed a set of activities for parents These are given to them in session 1 of the 4-session  pilot programme with the agreement that they will try out at least one activity each week with their child at home, and provide us with feedback on their effectiveness.

We have developed and ran a Zippy at Home programme in two schools during 2012-13. The groups were small with a maximum size of 12 people. We ran groups in  three Walker Primary schools in 2013-14, and are currently working with 2 more Newcastle schools.

We talked to Keith, the man behind making this work happen in Newcastle. Here’s what he had to say.


How would you describe your project in a couple of sentences?

A project by Partnership for Children designed to improve young people’s emotional awareness/intelligence. Over 1,000,000 children have gone through the programme.

What prompted you to act/get involved? What was the change you wanted to see?

To help improve mental health and emotional wellbeing through working with schools. By using a programme called ‘Zippy’s friends’ for ages 5-7 years to train teachers and children. It is made by a small not-for-profit organization who intended to teach children to cope and learn social skills. I feel it is the most important field of work for us all. It promotes wellbeing through countering and managing conflict. What is distinct about this project is it’s a new version of Zippy’s friends made for parents, to teach them how they are developing emotionally.

What are you most pleased about?

In terms of achievement: We have engaged 9 schools – 7 are still involved, that’s 332 children going through the programme this year. Also, producing a credible programme for parents – 13 groups, 100 are involved. It has now been published to give potential for further research – it is being used in America and China amongst other places!

What was most difficult?

It has been difficult sustaining the project and keeping people involved. Despite a package worth £350 being offered for free there has only been a few responses from schools. And its difficulty trying to draw parents in.

What surprised you most about getting involved?

People didn’t want to take it even though it was free! The idea is parents respond with empathy instead of arguing. Parents should tell children how they are feeling and engage with children’s feelings when they protest against something. Empathy has a magical results in regards to empathizing with their kids!

What’s the message you want to tell others?

Hmm..If we want to help kids manage themselves and their lives we need to teach them to know their emotions. This is an important skill for adults to have, so they should be taught from an early age. Mental health in society is not addressed by schools. They are important skills for us all! Everyone should be doing these programmes at all ages. There is an article to be referenced here – of adults knowing needs, emotions and identifying them. We want to persuade people they should be doing this programme. Mental health problems are so high in society!