The naíonra is an Irish-Medium pre-school, catering for children aged between three and five years of age, in which the Stiúrthóir, or leader, speaks only Irish in her interactions with the children. The naíonra includes children from English speaking homes where it serves as an early immersion in Irish and children from Irish speaking homes where it offers mother-tongue support, as well as exposure to English from the other children. Under the guidance of the Stiúrthóir the children learn Irish through play.
The pedagogical approach advocated by Ó Murchú is adapted in Crèche Cois Laoi and aims to offer teaching which is informal and centred around the child’s needs (particularly with regard to language), in a structured environment which offers stimulation through a wide range of toys and activities, and in an atmosphere of controlled freedom.
The Naíonra engage in activities which provide ample opportunity for the children to be gently immersed in the Irish Language. The key areas are the Home Corner, Music, Sand and Water, Painting, Play dough, Library, Board games and Construction toys. While the child engages in these activities the Stiúrthóir presents the appropriate language, either in simple phrases or sentences or in songs or rhymes, to describe or comment on the children's actions, and the new language is therefore always tied to a meaningful context. The intention is that the Irish heard in the Naíonra should be naturally linked to the child's life, interests and needs, rather than based on structural language teaching methods.
There is no pressure put on the children to speak Irish. The idea is that the child will acquire this second language in the way in which he/she acquired the first – by listening, understanding, isolating words and structures and eventually producing words, phrases and sentences. The Stiúrthóir will try to develop the speaking ability of the children, to enrich their competence in Irish and to extend their vocabulary through the wide range of activities involved.