Introducing… Frankie the kindy dog!
Introducing… Frankie the kindy dog!
If your preschooler likes dogs, then they’ll love the new picture book, Frankie Goes to Kindergarten.
Based on the real-life adventures of Frank the therapy dog, this book follows Frankie through a fun-filled day at a fictional kindy. There’s playing and learning on every page, and back in the real world, Frank is busy providing care and companionship to the children at C&K Walkerston Kindy.
To learn more about Frank, we spoke with his owner, Peta Baxter. Peta is an early childhood teacher and director who created the Frankie book with her colleague, Connie Hemmens, and illustrator, Marjory Gardner.
Here, she explains how under-fives make leaps and bounds with a therapy dog around.
Fictional Frankie has oodles of charisma! How did the real Frank become a therapy dog at your kindy, and what positive influence does he have?
I have been teaching at C&K Walkerston Kindy for 14 years, but Frank has only been attending since 2019. That was the year I changed my kindy laptop screensaver to a photo of Frank. The children saw it and kept asking about him, and whether I could bring Frank in for show and tell. So, I did, and everyone fell in love with him instantly!
Frank was so well-behaved at kindy and did everything with the group. Anyway, that was all it was meant to be – just a visit for Frank on one day – but then the next day, the children kept asking if I could bring him back, and the parents said Frank was all they’d heard about after kindy!
So, we spoke to C&K and made sure all the safety and hygiene precautions were in place, as well as a risk assessment, and that is how Frank became our kindy therapy dog.
He’s been coming in two or three times a week for the last two years, and the most amazing thing we’ve seen is that children with separation anxiety cope much better with Frank there. The ones that are crying about saying goodbye to their families, suddenly wave goodbye happily and rush over to spend time with Frank.
Frank picks up on when children are sad, and he often goes and sits near those who are upset. It's like he just knows that they need some extra love and attention.
From having Frank at kindy, we’ve also seen first-hand how children learn a strong sense of ownership and responsibility and how to look after a pet. They make sure his water bowl is filled up, brush him and bathe him regularly. They learn how to be gentle and kind to an animal.
Children who were once scared of dogs start to love them, because they spend time with Frank and fall in love with him, despite their initial fears. They draw him pictures and make little Frank models out of playdough. They make beaded necklaces for him at the threading table, and they love to read to him. They also include Frank in their imaginary play in home corner by having tea parties with him and dressing him up!
He’s popular with our families, too. Frank greets everyone as they walk through the door at drop-off and pick-up time, and parents, grandparents and siblings all love seeing him!
Therapy dogs are uncommon in kindergartens. What special precautions do you take to make sure your pooch is a safe fit for your kindy kids?
C&K has a very in-depth policy about keeping pets at kindy, and there’s a policy that applies specifically to having a kindy dog. Prospective kindy dogs need to undergo temperament-testing, because not every dog is suited to this special job.
We teach the children to always wash their hands after patting Frank, and also teach them where dogs enjoy being patted and areas they don't like being touched, such as their tails and ears.
Frank is tied up at mealtimes and he has his own little time-out area in the office, with a bed he can go to whenever he wants a break from all the attention.
He is always up-to-date with worming, flea and tick precautions and vaccinations. He is also registered with the local council.
Your book encourages kindness towards animals and responsible pet care. What other key messages are contained in Frankie Goes to Kindergarten?
Frank definitely inspired this story, but Connie and I have always wanted to write a book that helps children get excited about kindy. So, as well as including our star pooch in the book, we show children all the great play spaces and toys they’ll get to experience at kindy, and how they’ll learn to do jobs, like looking after their belongings.
We also felt it was important to show parents/families dropping children off and then returning at the end of the day, because not being collected is often a big fear for young children. They really need that reassurance that parents/families always come back at the end of the day.
We really wanted to put a sun safety message in there, too, and to talk about healthy food.
We also wanted to inspire conversations about being kind and gentle to people, and how exciting it is to make new friends, so we made sure this was featured in the book through words and illustrations.
Reading Frankie Goes to Kindergarten is a great way for parents to prepare their under-fives for the transition to kindergarten. How else can we get youngsters ready and excited, and also ease separation anxiety once they start kindy?
Beginning kindergarten can be daunting for some children, but parents can help children prepare by reassuring them that they will be back at the end of the day to hear about all their fun and learning.
Also, getting children to do little jobs at home (such as putting their own plate and cup away on the bench after dinner and helping to tidy up their toys after they’ve played with them) is a great way to prepare them for some of the jobs they’ll have to do at kindy.
Kindy builds children’s independence, confidence and persistence to overcome challenges and achieve set tasks, and parents can encourage this growth and development at home, before their child goes to kindy.
If a child has never been in care before, and a parent is worried that they’ll be sad about the separation, sometimes it’s a good idea to leave the child with a family member or friend for a short playdate, here and there, so they learn that they will definitely be picked up later and can get used to saying goodbye to their parents.
Most kindergartens offer playdates and visits in the lead-up to kindy starting, and these always help to build up a sense of trust with children, because they become familiar with their new teachers, friends and learning environment.
Most importantly, I encourage parents to stay positive when their child is feeling sad about separation, because it does pass over time. It’s important to keep reassuring them about how much fun they’ll have and all the wonderful things they’ll learn.
What’s next for the real Frank and fictional Frankie?
We are so excited about what's next for both of them!
The real Frank is going to use his fame for some more fundraising events this year for RSPCA and Mackay Animal Rescue. We want to take him to do some book readings in the community. We have also recently joined the caravanning world and want to use his platform to write about some amazing dog-friendly adventures that we go on with Frank in our caravan.
Frank’s Instagram and Facebook pages have lots of cute pics of our Frug (French Bulldog x Pug) in action at kindy!
When it comes to our fictional therapy dog, I really do hope there will be more Frankie books, such as Frankie Goes to Big School and Frankie Visits the Vet. We have big dreams for our Frankie character and are excited that the first title is proving popular already.
Win a copy of the book!
Thanks to Ford Street Publishing, we are giving away three hardcover copies of Frankie Goes to Kindergarten.
For your chance to win, just tell us in 25 words or less, where your child wants fictional Frankie to go next!
Email your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 16 April.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 14 April 2021
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