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Benefits of Introducing Children To The Amazing World of Hand and Finger Puppets

Updated on June 11, 2011
Minky Monkey Puppet
Minky Monkey Puppet
Finger Puppet Friends
Finger Puppet Friends

Their ease-of-use and low level of puppetry skill required in using them makes hand- and finger- puppets the most popular puppets on the market. This includes sock- and glove- puppets which are merely variations of hand puppets.

Simple,  easy-to-use hand- and finger-puppets are essentially sold as children's toys. Being aware of what you as parent can achieve with the aid of puppets will change your perception of them. If you think of a puppet as a lifeless toy - just another addition to the overflowing toy box -then this article is for you.

A thorough understanding of how puppets can enrich your relationship with your child will enhance both your own and your child's puppet experience.

When you give your child a puppet you are not merely giving him or her another toy. You are providing them with a friend and a confidant.

When you use a puppet to the best of your advantage you are providing yourself with a key to your child's deepest thoughts.

Puppets Portraying Different Emotions

Happy Sally
Happy Sally
Sad Sally
Sad Sally

What Makes Hand and Finger Puppets So Special?

Not only can you provide your child with invaluable lessons during a puppet show you will be amazed at what you can learn about your child while he or she interacts with the puppets. You can gain insight into how your child thinks and feels about various topics that may be of concern to you. If approached correctly puppet sessions can become a very meaningful mechanism to create a platform for healing communication if and when the need arises. Interaction with puppets encourages self-expression and helps a child cope with his fears and feelings.

Puppets are one of the few toys that have lasted throughout the years as a favorite among both children and adults alike. This is mainly I suppose because many of the toys on the market are a passing phase and what may be hot today will be outdated by next week. Puppets however never cease to capture the imaginations of their audiences as they create a fascinating imaginary world. They have the ability to break down barriers providing an effective means to initiate communication. When it comes to dealing with problems, children find it easier to work through something that is troubling them if they can externalize the problem. Puppets provide them with the opportunity to do this.

Puppets cross all cultures and can be made to portray various characteristics and different personalities. They can be good or bad, happy or sad, rude or shy, - basically portray any emotion that the puppeteer wishes them to.

The benefits that puppets offer is not limited to hand and finger puppets but as this article presumes the reader is interested in hand- or finger- puppets when the article refers to puppets this refers specifically to these types of puppets. For the inexperienced puppeteer using a combination of a hand puppet as the central figure and finger puppets as the other characters eliminates the need to change puppets during a puppet session. This makes for an easy flowing session.

Hand Puppets Need Not Be Elaborate

Benny the Hand Puppet
Benny the Hand Puppet

Puppets and Children With Special Needs

The use of puppets as a learning tool is not limited to the classroom as their ability to provide an essential connection between learning and play makes them ideal for use both at home and in the wider community. Children who experience difficulties in communication and interaction can be motivated to open up when working with puppets. Educators recognize the value of puppets and use them extensively to develop various motor and social skills in both elementary and intermediate schooling.

Puppets can be used to successfully teach young children about basic good manners, personal hygiene and overcoming the normal fears that small children experience. They can be used to develop your child's reasoning skills as talking about ideas helps children to clarify their thinking. Using a puppet to illustrate a first visit to a doctor or dentist, what to do in the case of emergency, how to take care of their pets are just a few of hundreds of scenarios where a puppet friend can teach a child skills in a relaxed and calm atmosphere.

Older children can be taught about child abuse, stranger danger, getting on with peers, not giving in to peer pressure and learning to accept people with differences. There are puppet programs specifically designed for children with eating disorders and according to reports these puppet programs have been more successful than other types of counsellings.

Many autistic children who tend to withdraw into themselves have benefited from therapy involving puppets. Down's syndrome children also relate well to puppets.

Special Relationship With Puppets Essential

Introducing Your Child to the Puppet

If you intend to use the puppet as a communication vehicle between you and your child it is important that your child feels that the puppet belongs to him. This will allow the child to build a non-threatening relationship with the Puppet and improve his ability to empathize with his new friend.

The most natural way of introducing your child to his newly found friend is to bring your bedtime stories to life by using the puppet to tell the stories. There are no set rules for using puppets but it is advisable to create a distinct character with the puppet. Let him mirror behaviors that you want to promote and allow the puppet to explain the reasoning behind certain key life skills you want to explain to your children.

When not being used it is a good idea to retain the puppet's character, talk to him and explain things to the puppet so that your child feels as if the puppet is part of the family.

It is advisable not to jump in and bombard your child with questions during the first few puppet sessions. Let your child first develop a sense of identity with the Puppet so that your child can build a sense of trust in what the puppet has to say. At a later stage you can  start exploring more sensitive issues with your child.

Using Hand and Finger Puppets to Communicate With Your Child

What Makes Puppets Special from a Parent's Perspective?

Even the shyest children tend to open up and talk to puppets as children generally interact easily with them. This not only assists children in overcoming shyness but also improves a young child's vocabulary. Concentration and imagination are also strengthened by this interaction.

Not all puppet sessions should be pre-planned lessons as this will remove the spontaneity and could be a stumbling block in getting your child to open up and form a bond with his new friend. Puppets must be associated with both fun and wisdom and not feel like just another school lesson.The whole puppet playing process should be one of give and take and you will need to identify when certain levels of discussion are appropriate.

It is with good reason that puppets are used by psychologists to help abused and traumatized children to express their feelings. Parents can also make use of puppets to take their relationships with their offspring to another level by reaching the inner child.

Puppet shows are another means of practicing role-playing with your child and offers an ideal opportunity to communicate new thoughts and feelings. It will help you in creating more positive behavior by subtly changing the way a child thinks about certain situations.
The fact that the children are having fun while watching and listening to the puppets makes them susceptible to new teachings as they are calm and relaxed.

At some stage most children are faced with a stressful situation such as a divorce, a new baby, a death, a move, bullying, and so forth. Broaching any of these subjects during a puppet session may give you insights into how to help your child cope with the situation. This is an ideal way to motivate your child to discuss things that they may otherwise not easily have opened up and spoken about.

Puppet sessions where your child plays an active part in communicating with the puppets gives your child the opportunity to experiment with new ideas and ways of thinking in a safe environment. You can place your child in dangerous situations and ask them to make decisions. By being there when they need to make a difficult choice you can guide them to make the right decision should they ever be faced with a similar situation in real life. Potentially dangerous situations such as stranger danger and child abuse can be discussed with your child through the puppet.

On a Lighter Note

Deciding on activities to keep children amused at birthday parties can sometimes prove to be a bit of a problem. Finger puppets given to the guests  are an economical solution to the question of party favors. The children can then take turns to host puppet shows in small groups. The children will not only entertain themselves but you are almost guaranteed of a very entertaining and amusing afternoon. You will be surprised at how imaginative small children can be when provided with the opportunity.


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    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for the comment Tina. Glad you enjoyed the hub!

    • TINA V profile image

      TINA V 

      11 years ago

      This is an informative hub. Any educational toys, books or materials can help many children grow both mentally and emotionally. I hope many parents can read this article.


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