For me, as an educator, the hand puppet is indispensable. Not only because it brings so much joy and serves as a tool through which I can actively shape what I want to impart to a child. But mostly because, through the hand puppet, I am reminded why I so enjoy working for and with children.
The hand puppet has enriched my life, as a teacher and educator, but also as a person
I am Helen Meurs, a teacher, trainer, and developer, but above all, a dreamer and an idealist. I wish that every child feels they have the freedom to express themselves, feels significant, and gets the opportunity to fully flourish. My contribution is to facilitate children by giving them the tools and skills to discover and use their own language, to experience and embrace their own identity.
A question that has fascinated me my entire life is, 'how can you provide someone with opportunities?' For me, going to university wasn't a given; I didn't come from an environment where that was the norm. But I needed to maintain the belief that when I grew up, I could become anything I wanted to be. That's why I went to university and became a teacher, allowing me to actively contribute to the development of children and inform them of the opportunities they have. In 2006, after experiencing three burnouts, I left the teaching profession and continued as an entrepreneur.
As a teacher, I had found in the hand puppet a fantastic tool that I had fully experimented with and saw possibilities and opportunities that would be interesting for anyone who had children or worked with them. From the moment I became an entrepreneur, I have worked non-stop with hand puppets in various sectors, had the opportunity to further educate myself, and experimented a lot with the adults and children who visited me. This has provided a wealth of information, knowledge, and experience.
I live on Bonaire (Caribbean Netherlands) and mainly work online.
With a hand puppet you literally have the possibilities in your own hands, I'd love to help you make the most of them
What makes my approach unique is that I view the puppet from the child's perspective
It's not puppet theater, not puppetry, not role-playing, and also not therapy, but rather a relationship-oriented approach, where it's not me encouraging and challenging the child, but my puppet
The starting point is always a curiosity about the child and the desire to get to know them better. My biggest challenge is to follow the child from a basic attitude that doesn't make assumptions, has no judgments, and where everything can and may exist.
Working with a hand puppet is not a trick, but a dynamic process in which you continuously look at:
What works in one situation may not work in another. I don't provide you with a recipe that always works, but rather the ingredients that you can mix yourself.
Building a relationship revolves around observing and listening to a child. I provide you with the questions and prompts, and you combine them to fit each child.
With the right tools, goals become within reach. I will teach you how to combine some very common tools with your puppet to get where you want to be with a child.
You are unique in how you utilize the puppet and what you aim to achieve. I will assist you in finding an approach that aligns with your style, works for you, and is sustainable.
I don't teach you standard recipes, but rather techniques and a way of thinking that you can combine, so that something new can emerge each time and you can assess what you need for each situation to get where you want to be.
What do I do as a hand puppet coach?
The term 'Hand Puppet Coach' emerged in 2019 when I had to define what exactly I do with a hand puppet. Most would call me a puppeteer, but the goals of puppetry are different from my objectives.
- I use a puppet to engage children and invite participation.
- My role focuses on building a friendship between the child and the puppet; I don't perform an act.
- The puppet is not a character or a stereotype; it needs to resonate with the child's world.
- When playing with the puppet, I don't interfere with the dialogue between the child and the puppet.
The suffix 'coach' best describes my role: to stimulate development and guide towards progress. In this context, the term 'coach' serves a dual purpose. You, as the puppeteer, coach the child by transforming your educational objectives into actionable steps. Simultaneously, the puppet coaches by encouraging and guiding the child towards victories through play.
My work revolves around consciously leveraging the puppet's power, a role distinct from mine. I have chosen to champion this methodology due to its extraordinary positive impact on children’s development. It changes the entire educational atmosphere and fosters quicker learning, increased communication, and a more significant inclination to try new things.
Who Is My Target Audience?
I work with parents, grandparents, and professionals in childcare, education, healthcare, group leadership, and youth care. I guide them on how to establish greater language skills, trust, and safety through puppetry, and achieve a more engaged relationship with the child.
What Can I Offer?
You can consult me for:
- Training programs
- Customized plans (e.g., incorporating the hand puppet within a specific method or situation)
- Or, if you'd like to become a Hand Puppet Coach within your organization