Do you have children around you that make you wonder what’s going on in their heads? Children who catch your attention, raise questions, and make you pull out all the stops to learn more?

I had a few in every class. Children who stood out because they said nothing, or said a lot, but did so in a way that raised even more questions. Or children who suddenly explode. You surely know them.

You look at them and feel that something is going on, but you can’t put your finger on it, they say nothing. They just look at you, maybe shrug their shoulders, smile, and walk away. “There is nothing I want to share with you, miss,” is the message they give you.

For me, these children were the reason to start doing “something” with a puppet. I recognized their behavior, the look in their eyes, and knew they weren’t going to tell me anything, that I was too unsafe for them. No matter what I did. Just as I didn’t let adults in as a child, they want something from you, they ask you to tell something and then punish you or get angry, they don’t always do what they say, they see the world differently than you.

That was the reason I chose a puppet. You can say anything to a puppet.

The puppet became my tool. My favorite tool even because the puppet indeed built a bond with children, played games with them, practiced words together, came up with a small task here and there, and made learning so much more fun. For the children, but also for me. A pleasant side effect of the puppet was that I could collect information about children much more easily. They told my puppet what they didn’t tell me and were challenged by my puppet to show a bit more of themselves. With friends, you don’t have to be ashamed, you can be yourself, and you can admit that you keep fooling the teacher, letting her think you are shy, but actually, you can’t find the right words, that’s the real problem.

I have gained so much more insight into children by working with a puppet that is a real friend. And by a real friend, I mean that the puppet is there for the child, thinks from the child’s perspective, acts in a way that helps the child, and always puts the child first, even when it’s inconvenient for me as an educator or when I have other plans. In my approach with the puppet, the relationship between the child and the puppet is always central. That is the foundation, and from that foundation, the puppet can participate in all activities I offer.

It is different from the approach where you think from a method or a learning goal. Your goals are not unimportant, but in working with a puppet, they are mainly viewed through the eyes of a child: what is there to enjoy? Why would a child want to participate in this of their own accord? I look through the eyes of the child at the content I want to offer, wonder what’s fun about it, and then let my puppet do the work.

This leads to a lot of enthusiasm and involvement from the children. My puppet builds relationships with children, and because of the safety children experience in that relationship, they open up to the puppet. What children don’t tell me, they often do tell my puppet, who understands them, supports them, and has no judgments about what they tell him. That’s how it works with friends.

Do you want to know more or learn how you can apply this yourself? Let me know or send an email to helen@helenmeurs.com, I’d love to talk with you.

Until the next blog.

With love,

Author

I am a former teacher, passionate trainer, and author of the book 'The Hand Puppet as an Educational Tool'. As an expert in using hand puppets to strengthen relationships, challenge language development, and increase children's engagement, I work with parents, educators, childcare professionals, counselors, therapists and others who want to use a puppet as a bridgebuilder. I teach you how to bring a hand puppet to life, make it recognizable, and effectively integrate it into your conversations and activities. My playful and relationship-oriented approach helps you see more from children, communicate with them in different ways, and enhance their participation.

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

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