Using a puppet for therapy or teaching is not as easy as turning up to a session and pulling out your new fancy puppet. In fact, a skilled puppeteer with a sock on her hand will do better than an unskilled puppeteer with a top-of-the-range purchase. If you wish to develop your skills in using a puppet, you may wish to read through some of the free downloads below or if you are really keen, book into one of our workshops -they’re a lot of fun!
Using Puppets In Teaching or Therapy: Tip #1
When a puppet is first placed on your hand, it becomes ALIVE… it becomes its own ENTITY, with a personality, feelings and thoughts separate to your own.
There is no going back.
Even when you finish your session, the puppet must be treated with RESPECT (at least when children are around)… No throwing it in a box or squashing it into a plastic bag. It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to keep the magic alive.
Ways To Use Puppets
Exploring TENSE with Grandma and Grandpa
Praise Wise Choices
Children love being praised for being wise – and using an owl puppet is a perfect way to do it. Sit your owl puppet somewhere prominent in the classroom. She might even be placed on a branch that you secure out of reach. At the end of the day (or session), take her down. Using the internal rod, rotate her head to quietly look around the room and then back to you. She has made her choice! Next, take her to your ear and pretend she is whispering.
Explain to the children who has been chosen by Wise Owl for today’s Wise Owl Award and why…
The child’s name can be written on the Wise Owl Award and either sent home as a certificate – or displayed in the classroom. (See below).
Puppets for Learning sells two puppets for this purpose. One, the Giant Owl Puppet has great presence in the classroom. Sit her up high and have her oversee the goings-on. You can check her out here.
The other, is a lot smaller, but very cute and serves the same purpose. She can be viewed here.
Using My Little Buddy Finger Puppets
These little finger puppets can be used in lots of way to may learning more fun. Read all about it here… My Little Buddy
Promote Pretend Play
A-hoy there! We know that language development is closely related to the development of pretend play. The pirate puppet is a brilliant one for encouraging exactly that – pretend play. When a child has a puppet on their hand, treat the puppet as if it is alive. Ask the puppet questions and make comments to the puppet. I find this works so well for children who are intimidated by being spoken to directly or feel pressured when expected to speak. Keep the focus on the puppet, and include the child more and more as the session goes on. Try and get promote the pretend world. Instead of saying “Let’s pretend this box is a pirate ship”, say something like: “Hey pirate, is this your pirate ship? Wow look at its big sail… let’s climb aboard and go sailing to find some treasure!” More tips for using the Pirate puppet are here
Promote Clear Speech
A large part of promoting clear speech is simply increasing the child’s awareness of speaking clearly. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Usually young children speak with their focus entirely on the content of what they want to say and not on how they are saying it, so when speech is problematic – difficult to understand – it is important to increase the child’s awareness of their own clarity. This should always be done in a positive manner and it should be taken into account the normal errors that a young child makes. Do not expect a three year old to be producing all sounds and all words accurately. They should, however, be largely intelligible.
Using a “slow-talking” or “clear-talking” puppet can help increase the awareness of speaking clearly. Gail the Snail puppet is perfect for this. You can download tips for using Gail the Snail here. Gail the Slow Talking Snail
Model and Explore Social Behaviour
Puppets are a great way to explore and model social behaviours and routines. Of course, this can also be done using dolls. Below are some general tips:
- Choose a situation that you have observed difficult for a child or a group of children. Play out this situation using puppets. As the puppeteer, make comments or pose questions about how each puppet may be feeling or thinking, what they should do, what they could do etc… Children can find it easier to view and reflect on a situation from this perspective rather than if you discuss it directly in relation to the child’s own behaviour.
- You may also wish to choose some situations that are not neccessarily observed as difficult, but are common to children. This allows a platform for general conversation about relationships, feelings of others etc… If you are only presenting difficult social situations, children can be resistant to watching your puppet plays.
- After presenting your puppet plays, leave the puppets and props out for children to play with. This can promote further exploration and consolidation of skills.
- Throughout the day, you may wish to relate children’s behaviour back to the puppet play that was presented. “Hey, you are doing some great sharing like Abbie and Bobby”…
- A social theme for the week can be introduced and puppet play used to introduce this theme. Ideas are SHARING, ASKING FOR HELP, FEELING ANGRY etc…
One program that coveres all this perfectly is SOCIAL PUPPETS available from the online shop. This is a great one for preschoolers and for young children with autism spectrum disorder. It covers 25 social scenarios, along with certificates and TWO PUPPETS. Click here for more.
Promote Language with the CHEF
Language learning becomes even MORE fun with a puppet.
The chef puppet is one I use regularly… He can be used to teach new vocab, particularly action words and descriptive words (verbs and adjectives). Roll, chop, cut, fry… sticky, burnt, fresh, full, empty… We know that children with impaired language can be deficient in the use of these types of words.
The chef puppet can also be used to promote order (sequencing) an important facet of coherent language. He can be used to explore concepts such as first, then, next, after, before..
With the success of cooking shows, the chef has become a familiar character for children. A tipsheet for using the CHEF puppet is here. Check out more pictures of him in the picture gallery.