What was your first idea when you saw your (or a) hand puppet ? Did you think of the enthusiasm with which he would be received? Or the conversations he was going to provoke? The goals you can use it for, the areas you could use it for, or the topics it could introduce you to? Did you think about the fun you would experience?

Different perspectives

In the past 15 years, I have spoken to many people who work with or want to work with a puppet. When asked, what will your puppet do? There is mostly an immediate answer. The answer to this question is usually also the reason why you bought a puppet, you know very well what you want with it, where you want to go and what you hope to achieve through the puppet.

Increasing a child’s interaction or participation in a conversation or activity is often cited as a reason for using a puppet. The accessibility of the puppet as a friend quickly yields images of children who talk very easily to a puppet. The puppet thus makes it possible to gain more insight into what lives in a child, his language skills, or how he thinks. Information for which you sometimes have to put in quite a bit of effort, but which you get thrown into your lap for free with the addition of the puppet.

Introducing a new theme in the classroom is also often cited as a reason for the puppet’s presence. Because children are relaxed by the presence of the puppet and are actually always interested in what he has to say, the puppet makes a new theme or subject for children fun in advance. For many, the role of the puppet is also clear when introducing a theme, you can imagine how your puppet comes in at the introduction of the autumn theme with a basket of leaves, acorns, chestnuts and beechnuts. You have boots ready for him, he is wearing a thicker sweater, you have an umbrella nearby, a raincoat and also songs and rhymes that you can use.

The more specific the better

A lot of angles are possible, the hand puppet can be used anywhere and can support you in all these situations. Some perspectives are very concrete and others are more abstract. Showing a book, playing a game or asking a question are very concrete activities. When working with a theme or subject, the theme (or subject) is already concrete, and the question is ‘and what exactly will the puppet do then?’

The further you get away from a concrete activity, the more difficult it becomes to actually use your puppet. Increasing interaction is a common reason to use a puppet, but it will only work if the goal is turned into a concrete activity with content that a child wants to respond to and gives you answers to the questions you have. Your puppet can absolutely become a great assistant (for you and the children) and find a place in every development area, but for that you have to give him concrete activities and keep asking questions about every hunch you have. By going a little further in making the reason why you take the puppet with you, you give yourself something to hold on to, you become more confident in working with your puppet and your activities with the puppet turn out as you had hoped.

See it big but keep it simple

So start simple and in situations where the use of the puppet is obvious: within a circle situation. Make sure you can make your subject concrete and enjoy what the puppet triggers. Do not forget to watch and listen to the children, and do not want everything at once. Those are my most important tips for every enthusiastic and novice player of any (method) puppet. Do you want more tips or do you have questions? Then subscribe to my mailing list below or email me helen@helenmeurs.com. I’m happy to help you with your puppet.

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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