My hand puppet makes me sleep better, that may sound like a urban legend, but it really is. As a teacher, I sometimes had sleepless nights because some children kept me busy. Children with whom I had little or no contact, so I had to guess what they thought, felt and wanted. That changed when I started working with a hand puppet, then I got in touch with children in a different, richer way. I tell you about it in this video.

I am a hand puppet coach, that is a profession, a specialization. I work with parents, teachers, pedagogical staff, caregivers, counselors and others who focus on the upbringing and education of children. I train educators and still love going into the classroom with my puppet.

For me, it’s not about the hand puppet as a thing. I don’t emphasize the technique of playing either, technique is needed, but you shouldn’t make it more complicated than strictly necessary. The puppet serves what I want to do with it, what I intend to teach and pass on to children. That’s my main reason for using a puppet . What I want to pass on requires not only a puppet that comes to life, but also a puppet that actively provides direction, who comes with examples, sometimes literally takes children by the hand and is itself part of a (learning) process. The puppet is controlled by me, but operates from a different role and can bring its content in its own way. That gives space, air and above all a lot of fun.

There is much more to learn about working with a hand puppet than meets the eye. When working with a puppet, people quickly think of playing technique, but that is only a tiny part of my work as a hand puppet coach. Technique is quite ‘overrated’ if I’m honest. Children don’t really care at all whether the movements are correct, whether the voice fits and is always the same, or whether the puppet is visibly breathing. Kids don’t worry about that at all. They are mainly interested in who the puppet is, what he’s coming to do, if they might become friends, if he might want to play along?

If you look at a puppet through the eyes of children, a barrel full of possibilities arises. Opportunities that you can use to gain more insight into a child, to challenge him to participate, to tell something, to try something, to learn something. I experimented a lot with that, and through my puppet I got access to the world of the child like I had never seen before. That fascinated me. What was the access or non-accession dependent on? What could I improve about the interpretation of my puppet, the questions, the words I gave him to open the door to the child? How could I combine that with the learning content I wanted to offer, with the action plans I had to implement, with the goals I wanted to work towards with children. How could I constructively use my puppet to support and help children in a playful and sparkling way with, for example, their language or social-emotional development?

Working with a puppet is not the same as playing with a puppet. It is also not the same as role-playing or giving a performance. If you really want to compare it with something, then imitation play comes the closest, I think. I give my puppet character traits, hobbies, thoughts and ideas that I find helpful for children. I give her (him) her own language and a way of responding that matches the role that the puppet has been given, and I am aware of the pitfalls I have to avoid. My puppet does not serve a method, but can be used with a method. She can shine her light on anything at any time of the day. Whether it’s about language, math, nature education, social-emotional development, a quarrel in the square, joy because something succeeds for the first time without help, an accident with wet pants, or ….. My puppet can be picked up anywhere.

That gives a lot of space and fun.

Would you like to know more about working with a hand puppet in your classroom, group or practice? Send me a mail, I am happy to help you create a puppet that works for you. helen@helenmeurs.com

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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