This article was published in the Dutch Magazine “Juf” (teacher) in 2018, I want to share it with you, because it is full of useful tips.

A puppet is just a puppet. As beautiful as it is, it is in base a piece of fabric and not a tool right away. For that, the puppet needs to come to life and try to find a connection with children. In this blog, I give you some tips for different ages.

First, some general tips:

  • Let the puppet connect to the world of the children. In kindergarten, he is therefore interested in the puppet corner, building corner and playing outside. In the first grade, the puppet is learning to read and his first sums. In the fourth, it is about geography and the world around him.
  • Let the puppet talk from the I-form.
  • Start with the puppet by letting him look around the classroom alone. He comes in as a newbie. In such a case, don’t you first look the cat out of the tree yourself? Let the kids tell him how things are going here.
  • Be aware that a puppet’s behavior affects how the children behave. If you put a puppet as a busy clown, the children will also be busy. Be careful with statements like ‘The puppet is not here today, because he didn’t feel like school’
  • A puppet who knows everything and can do everything is boring. Don’t make it a flat character, but a realistic friend. The puppet has an assertive character. He dares to admit it when something doesn’t work or goes wrong. And then he can be really bummed, but he’s not sick of it.
  • First, let the puppet build a relationship with the children with simple conversations. Don’t broach difficult topics right away. You don’t do that in everyday life, do you?
  • The puppet is all about interaction. Let him ask a lot of questions and tell a little himself.
  • Let children come up with their ideas. In the kindergarten groups, he can join an outdoor activity. In the fifth and sixth grade, the children make a photo report with the puppet about their school camp
  • See the character of the puppet separately from yourself. The puppet has no judgement!
  • Look closely at how the children react to the puppet. In the lower years, children are sometimes afraid. They find the puppet’s eyes scary. In that case, do not make eye contact with the puppet and do not let it ask questions of the child. Explain: this isn’t real, it’s just a puppet. Just assume that those children will come when they get over their fear.

    For grade 1–3:

  • Use the puppet with or after the instruction. You probably know it: you ask if everyone has understood the material and all the children nod, although a few really don’t get it. Then take the puppet and have him say, ‘I don’t get it… who else doesn’t?’ Then it emerges for whom a ‘no’ was actually applied. The puppet can also stop by while working to see how things are going. Some children do not dare to ask the teacher for help. They often talk more easily to the puppet. Kind of like having friends in class helping each other.

    For grade 4–6:

  • A hand puppet in grade 4–6 is an adventure. You have to be enthusiastic and dare to do it, otherwise it is better not to do it. Keep in mind that kids will chuckle and think it’s stupid at first. Just let it be. If they say: ‘Yeah but gosh miss, that’s a puppet!’, you only respond with ‘Yes and?’ First, let the puppet sit alone in the classroom without doing much. Children don’t expect that, and that’s how they become curious. At the end of the day, he comes back one more time. Can I ask you a question, do you have Instagram? Can we be friends?’ Children do not expect that either, because that does not fit with their expectation of being childish. (Then of course you have to make sure that you have created an Instagram page for the puppet.) In the first period, you give a stimulus every time. “Did you see that on the news?” The puppet has an opinion and wants to exchange it. He wants to learn things. ‘Is there anyone who can play drafts well?’ In this way, children slowly adjust their image of puppets. You start with small talk, and eventually you can move on to heavier topics, such as puberty and group formation.

Written by: Lenny Tamerus for Juf Magazine

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.

Read the article

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

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