In this book, I want to share my love for the hand puppet with you. I didn’t play with hand puppets as a child, at least not that I know of, but that changed when I became a kindergarten teacher. Then I discovered the power of the puppet, got fascinated by it and challenged myself to reveal its secret. That puppet had something, I didn’t have, and I was curious if I could use it to help, for example, silent children, children with language delay or trauma.
It all started with Luca. Luca was a child in my class, a small boy with light-brown hair and big brown eyes. He didn't say anything in the circle, he didn't connect with me, and left me often with the feeling I was failing him. I couldn't give him what he deserved, and that frustrated me. One day, I took a puppet with me to the classroom. I had never done that before, I had read somewhere, some children react better to a puppet and I would try that out.
I felt really uncomfortable with that puppet. I didn’t know what to expect, didn’t have a role model, and was very nervous. From the moment I started and introduced my puppet Doki, children were yelling that he was fake, yelling that it was me who was playing, that it was a puppet. Some came running to me to grab Doki by his nose, others stood up, were jumping while calling Doki’s name. It was a total mess! The more I tried to ignore the children and go on with the story I had prepared, the more children were sure that I was playing the puppet. "Yes, miss Helen is playing, I can see it too, it's a puppet, it's a puppet, it's a puppet!!!!!!"
I couldn't manage it and decided to put the puppet in my bag. That moment I thought I would never use a puppet again. The class was totally out of control, I obviously wasn’t made for working with a puppet. I tried and I failed.
Within an hour, Luca stood beside me and pulled me on my arm. "Is Doki still in your bag, miss Helen?" he asked. "I want to tell him something" I was flabbergasted. Luca hadn't told me anything, in all the months I had been his teacher. I made countless attempts to get him to say something. I didn't succeed but Doki, my puppet did.
That moment with Luca, almost 30 years ago, was the beginning of my journey with the puppet. Examining the possibilities of the hand puppet for my role as an educator has been by far the most exciting, playful and creative journey I have ever made in my professional carrier. It enriched me and made me a better person and better educator.
I have come to know the hand puppet as a tool that all educators and teachers should have in their bag of tricks. A hand puppet captivates children's attention, tempting them to come out of their shell, to open up and to start communicating. It's astonishing how quickly the friendship between a child and a puppet can grow. The puppet naturally fits into the child's world and easily accesses his needs, his doubts, his feelings and his wishes. Imagine how many options that give you as an
educator, how many doors a puppet can open for you, how much information it can gather for you?
A puppet is just a puppet when you buy one, and it can become an educational tool. It isn’t automatically one. The difference between 'just' a puppet and a puppet as a tool is that the latter has a purpose. He's there for a reason and plans to build a relationship with the child. The relationship is the basis of all what he does. The puppet has his own voice, his own persona, and you decide how and when he appears. When an incident happens, when you decide this is a teachable moment, you take out the puppet. You decide the content and your puppet conducts the conversation, or activity because it is easier for children to respond to your puppet. That’s the whole idea.
Working with a puppet is fun, playful and sparkling. It is also a skill, and like any skill you acquire in your life, it takes time, practice and perseverance. The good news is you don’t need Hollywood qualities for working with a puppet as a tool. It might be a bit awkward in the beginning, it might be out of your comfort zone, but the payoff is phenomenal. Believe me, it’s all worth it.
In this book, I’ll guide you through the process and teach you what you need to know to start your own adventure. You don't have to do it alone, I'm right next to you, with all my experience and all my knowledge with the ups and downs in this process. What I teach you in this book can be applied to all situations with children. Whether that is education, childcare, youth care, coaching or therapy, the hand puppet is invaluable everywhere.
The first chapter of this book is about the added value of a hand puppet. About why you should use one. The second chapter is about what makes a hand puppet a useful educational tool, and which types of puppets lend themselves to be one. Chapter three is about the moments you can use a puppet and what sentences your puppet can use to invite children to join his activity.
In chapter four, I’m going to teach you how to bring your puppet to life. Chapter five tells you about the basic attitude, every puppet as an educational tool needs. You learn how your puppet can build on the relationship with the child. In chapter six, I give you the dos and don'ts regarding the introduction of the hand puppet and prepare you for your first meeting with children.
Chapter six, seven and eight are about the question “how do you keep the puppet interesting for children?” In chapter six I’m going to teach you my favorite tool "the chatting method.” It’s a very sparkling way of communicating with children which you can use in every situation, every topic and all the activities your puppet unfolds. Finally, I discuss the addition of materials and attributes that will allow you to further expand working with the hand puppet.
By the end of this book, you will be convinced, like me, that the hand puppet is indispensable to you, and you will know how to use it.
I’m for sure this adventure will change your life, have fun and enjoy it. ×