Puppets are a delightful way to encourage children to exercise their language skills. Studies show that children who are often reluctant to talk to an adult WILL talk to a puppet! The magic created as children communicate with puppets can be witnessed over and over again. Did you ever notice what happens when children interact with puppets? They don't look at your face-they look at and talk to the puppet! The puppet becomes a partner, a character they can have a real conversation with. So don't let stage fright prevent you from taking out the puppets that may be collecting dust on your shelf and using them to get children talking.

Make a Plan for Puppets

Perhaps one reason many people refrain from using puppets is the uncertainty of knowing just how to use them. With a clear plan in mind, you can use puppets not only at group time but throughout the entire day. A puppet can be a new classroom friend, a group-time mascot, a take-- home buddy, a confidant, or even a peacemaker. No matter how you use them, puppets can be a key to unlocking the voices of your children.

Create a Group-Time Mascot

You can use a special puppet to begin your morning meeting. Children like seeing the puppet every day, and this routine can also help them make transitions to and from the group. You can use the puppet to welcome children, lead the hello song, or to discuss the events of the day. It can also be used to share a recent experience that may be similar to one a child in the group has had or talk about feelings regarding a classroom situation that needs discussion. (If this is the case, use a large puppet that has an expressive face and moveable arms.)

Group-Time Puppets

Here are some ideas for using puppets at group time.

  • Introduce a new theme or concept with a puppet. You can use different puppets for different topics (a fish for F day) or dress up your meeting mascot to go with the theme. On "Blue Day," the puppet might wear a blue paper hat and a scarf!
  • Make simple stick or finger puppets representing characters from a favorite book. Do this, too, for story-songs such as "This Old Man" or "I Know an Old Lady". Children can use the puppets to play the different roles in the story or song.
  • Use a puppet to introduce a story. When the story is finished, the puppet can discuss it with the children. The puppet might ask, "Can you help me make up a new ending for my story?"
  • Designate a special puppet, such as a Riddle Puppet, to use to ask children "What am I thinking?" or to play an I spy game. Children will know a riddle is coming whenever you pull out this puppet!

PUPPETS POP UP THROUGHOUT THE DAY

Give puppets different identities and make them useful throughout the day in the following ways:

A New Classroom Friend  

The second month of school is a perfect time to introduce a new classroom family member-a puppet! Children will delight in telling the puppet all about the rules and even give it a tour of the room after group time. This is especially effective with shy children, You may see them chatting away to the puppet in a way you have never seen or heard them before! (A full-body puppet that looks like a stuffed animal is good for this activity, since children will want to carry it around to the different learning centers and sit next to it at snack time!)

A Peace Puppet

Need an impartial negotiator? Try a puppet. When an argument arises or a problem occurs in the classroom, children can take it to the puppet! Children are often more willing to listen and cooperate when they problem-solve with an "impartial" puppet friend. You can even use two homemade sock puppets set aside solely for this purpose to help children express their feelings. (Child-made sock or glove puppets are best when used for this purpose.)  

A Take-Home Buddy

Puppets, like dolls and stuffed animals, are wonderful for creating a home-school connection. Children can take the puppet-along with the puppets overnight bag and journal-home for the weekend to visit with the family. Don't forget to pack the disposable camera so that children can record its adventures! (This "take-me-- home" puppet should be one that is large enough so that children can dress it up and play with it.)

All fingerplays and songs are from The Great Big Book of Classroom Songs, Rhymes & Cheers (Scholastic Inc.; $21.95) or Terrific Transitions (Scholastic Inc.; $9.95), both by Ellen Booth Church. To order call 800-SCHOLASTIC.