Puppets have been used in classrooms, homes, hospitals and care centres for fun and learning. They have been used as an educational resource for decades, and various studies have proved that they are very effective aids for entertaining and teaching preschoolers. If you haven’t tried playing with puppets with your child before, here’s your chance!
You can make sock puppets by drawing a pair of eyes, ears and a cheerful mouth on a pair of socks. Slip one puppet on each hand and start a conversation between the two. Finger puppets can be tailor-made to fit your or your preschooler’s fingers. With a little imagination, you can have ten characters, one for each finger of both hands!
You can also make stick puppets by pasting animal faces on ice cream sticks for your preschooler to hold while you narrate a story. String puppets can be purchased from stores. However, using these puppets adroitly needs some practice.
But what exactly can preschoolers learn through puppets? The benefits are multifarious. Puppet play helps your child in -
1. Learning to communicate
The simplest way to get your little preschooler to open up and talk is through puppets. You can become the puppet’s voice and ask questions to your child and encourage him to move the puppet around as he answers. The puppet can also become ‘the friend’ that your child can talk to about anything! You will be surprised to learn how much more your child engages and communicates with the puppets compared to you. In the article, ‘Puppets in Education’ published on creativityinstitute.com, author A Greensmith says, “Any puppet can encourage the quietest of children to start talking. Puppets can break down barriers and provide an effective means to initiate communication.”
2. Understanding concepts
Puppets can be used as characters of a story to teach concepts and life skills. While you narrate the story and use the puppets to enact the scenes, you can see how keenly your preschooler is observing and listening. You can use this interesting method to teach values and morals to your child from a very young age, which she will remember for a lifetime.
3. Thinking creatively
Motivate your child to come up with stories and use the puppets to portray the different characters. Encourage him to come up with different voices for each character of his story. In case this is challenging, your child can mimic the actions you do with the puppets. You can play creative games using puppets or act out imaginary scenes with your preschooler and have the puppets play the roles of some characters.
4. Participating in craft work
Make a puppet stage along with your preschooler. Use cardboard cut-outs, stickers and child-friendly paint to design an attractive background. Make sure that your child chooses the theme and participates in the decorating process. Together, you can make your own puppets. Once ready, set up the puppet stage in her activity corner and allocate puppet time every day. You can also ask your child to invite her friends and stage a chatty puppet show that will be fun and engaging for all!
5. Enjoying companionship
Children see puppets as companions and friends. So, puppets are great for calming down hyperactive children. You can also use puppets to chide your child in a gentle and humorous way or soothe his nerves by singing to him. Caroline Paul, mother to a preschooler aged 3, from Chennai says, “My daughter is very attached to her kangaroo puppet and actually listens more to the puppet than to me!”
6. Developing motor skills
Handling and manipulating puppets helps a child develop gross and fine motor skills. Author A Greensmith mentions in her article that, “Puppets can assist children with special educational needs. They can motivate and support children with difficulties in communication and interaction. They can help to develop their social and motor skills, and can meet the visual, tactile and emotional needs of the individual child.”
So, what are you waiting for? Look around your home now and pick out little bits and bobs that can go into making your child’s first puppet pal.
Anitha Bennett is a freelance author who has written books for children from preschool to preteen levels. She also conducts workshops for parents, teachers and children.