Puppets as Fantastic Bridge-Builders Puppets are excellent bridge-builders to children who struggle to express themselves or have little trust in adults. This makes puppets particularly appealing to those who wish to gain better insight into a child’s world.

Offering Calm and Lowering Barriers While we aim to provide calm and lower the barriers for participation or sharing, puppets can sometimes be a source of unrest, particularly because they are new to both children and you.

Enjoying the Puppet Experience The joy of working with a puppet truly begins when calm surrounds the puppet, making it clear who it is, why it’s there, and creating a bond with the children (and yourself).

How Does It Become More Enjoyable for You? This blog focuses on your role. Over the years, I’ve observed many individuals and noticed how children’s responses to the puppet change as they become more relaxed. As perfectionism is released and the real value of the puppet is understood, the atmosphere shifts from performing a play to making genuine contact. The tension decreases and calm increases.

The Puppet Reflects Your Perception You control the puppet and largely determine its impact. If you feel uncomfortable with the puppet, it often shows and can be felt. If you are anxious or unsure how to react, the puppet will not seem like a tool for creating a safe situation, and the child will feel this too.

Feeling Comfortable is Essential for Sharing Achieving a comfortable feeling with your puppet is crucial because it emboldens you to share more of what’s on your heart. The same applies to children. They won’t spontaneously share what you want to hear until they feel seen and heard by the puppet.

Authenticity and Movement An authentic puppet, perceived as real by children, gains their trust quicker than one playing a role or judging their behavior. Working with a puppet is like a dance, moving in sync with the child, your conversational partner. You aim to connect, guide, teach, or allow experimentation.

Moving Together The term “moving together” captures the essence of how to use the puppet effectively. It involves watching, listening, asking questions, showing interest, and acknowledging the other. As your puppet starts to move with the children and build relationships, calm ensues because you meet what they seek from the puppet: contact and friendship.

Focus on Presence, Not Perfection The key is not to perfect puppetry skills or focus on vocal techniques but to be present, genuinely interested in the child and what they have to say. This means being willing to let go of preconceived notions about what a puppet ‘should do.’

Realizing the Puppet’s Potential The true potential of the puppet emerges when you view it not as an instrument to be perfectly operated but as a dynamic aid that evolves with the child’s needs, becoming a companion in their developmental journey.

Strategies for Success

  1. Be Present and Attentive: Ensure you are fully present when using the puppet. This means being there physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  2. Allow Authentic Responses: Children are highly sensitive to authenticity. If the puppet reacts in a natural and understandable way, children will feel more comfortable and open.
  3. Experiment with Contributions and Questions: Play around with the puppet’s input and the questions it asks. Let it ask questions at times and narrate at others. Discover what works best.
  4. Enjoy the Process: Don’t forget to have fun while working with the puppet. Children sense this positive energy and are more likely to open up.

By focusing on these aspects, you create an environment where the puppet truly functions as a bridge-builder, making children feel safe and understood. This not only enhances the child’s experience but enriches yours as well.

Author

Helen Meurs (helenmeurs.com) is a pioneer in the field of Puppet Power, an independent trainer and developer. She offers online courses, is the lead instructor at the vocational training for puppet coaches, and authored the book ‘The Hand Puppet as a Educational Tool’. Subscribe to her newsletter if you want to know more.

Lower The Barriers Through The Use of A Puppet

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