When I get to work with people in courses and ask them afterward what they have learned, I am often told that they had no idea that so much is possible with a puppet, that you can use a puppet in THIS way. By “THIS way” then is meant my way:

A whole new world opened up to me; I never looked at a puppet this way before.

Ineke

What you offer is truly unique, fascinating and enriching.

Patricia

Your videos made me realize that it can be done in another way, in a much more fun way!

Renee

Wow, I really had no idea that children could react like that to a hand puppet.

Arlette

You taught me how to really start telling stories through my hand puppet. The simple and approachable topics you start with, I would never have thought of that myself.

Marian

Assumptions and perceptions surrounding the hand puppet as a tool, regularly bother me. Wherever I go, I always have to explain what I do; ‘hand puppet coach, what should I imagine that to be? Are you a children’s coach then?” or ‘hand puppet coach? do you coach puppets then? ‘Oh, yeah, Arlecchino, The Muppets and stuff, so you give performances.”

No, it’s none of them, I’m not a puppeteer, not a children’s coach nor a coach for puppets. I work with teachers, masters and other (professional) educators who want to challenge children through a puppet, to get more contact, more language, more engagement and want to gain more insight into children through the puppet. The hand puppet is the instrument to another purpose thus. I have developed an approach that uses the opportunities and capabilities of the puppet to help children get from A to B. So the puppet is actually the coach in that process.

In a nutshell, this is what I do:

I take a puppet (which can be any, preferably neutral, puppet), bring that puppet to life and give it a character that children will identify with. Then I introduce the puppet to the group (or to the child) and work to build a friendship between the child and the puppet. This is because I know that a child will tell something to a puppet more easily than to me, and I would like to gather some additional information through the puppet. In addition, I want to use the friendship between the child and the puppet to challenge the child to use language, to push a boundary, to practice a skill, to interact differently, to ….. (fill in the blank).

So I use the child’s approachability and trust in the puppet to help a child take steps that he is a little less likely to take without a puppet. In this, I think in two roles: in that of the puppet as friend and in that of myself as teacher/educator. When I work with the puppet, my teacher role does not interfere with what happens between the child and the puppet. I don’t engage in dialogue with my puppet; it’s not a role play, not an act, not a “teacher activity. I package what I want to do, something that is on my program anyway, into a conversation, a game, an activity and have my puppet perform it in a way that children expect from a friend.

This is the whole idea, super simple, cheerful, fun, nice and playful and very effective. Because with this approach, I gather a lot of information about children, learning for children becomes a lot more fun, I get back greater engagement, my teaching climate becomes more positive and children feel safe to show themselves in all their magnificence and their needs. Children go home happy and enjoy coming back to school, which makes parents happy, the principal of the school happy and I too go home feeling happy and in the evening reflecting on the golden moments of the day. What a super job I have, how wonderful to have so much real contact with children, and all because I am helped by my hand puppet.

I know how that sounds “being helped by my hand puppet,” that sounds too good to be true, right?

But it can be done. I have managed to make my puppet a full-fledged assistant, and I am not the only one. Over the past few years I have taught several people how I do it, and they came to the same conclusion: I never step into a group without a puppet again, the puppet makes a big difference to the children, but also to me.

Working with a puppet is not a quick-fix, you can use any puppet, but it doesn’t come completely naturally. It is like a winning Powerball: you are not rich until you have taken the steps to collect the prize, you have to put some effort into it.

The same is true when working with the puppet, but IF you put in the effort and time to understand exactly how it works, you will get that time back in the form of time, information and fun.

If you want to know more, keep following me, because I’m going to lay it out for you in the coming weeks so you can decide if you want to work with me.

With love,

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.

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Published in a renowned Dutch professional journal for early childhood specialists.

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