No Fair: What’s Fair and Unfair to Preschoolers

NO FAIR!! What teacher or parent has not heard that lament from children? I’ve been exploring the concept of what is fair and what is not fair according to preschoolers. Not fair can mean many things, including someone not what they wanted, being excluded from something or something undesirable occurring.

In the world of art making, we teachers and parents have the opportunity to explore what feels fair to children. In the process, we get a glimpse into their unique worlds. Once inside, we can gather information for helping the children solve conflict or working together more joyfully.

I asked a group of 3 and 4 year olds what “fair” meant to them. “What is fair?” I asked. After a long pause, one 4 year old said, “It’s not happy, it’s not sad, it’s fair.” He then wrote his words, trying to grasp and express the abstract concept.

He grouped fairness with feelings. I thought about that and concurred that when something was fair we could feel it inside our bodies. It is kinesthetic, a sensation of well-being that accompanies our sense of fairness. While adults may not as easily access the sensations, children more-readily can. And unfairness is often felt intensely by children.

“What is ‘not fair?'” I inquired of the same boy.

Previously he had shown interest in a “No Parking” sign. When asked what a “No Fair” sign would look like, he thought for a moment, then sounded out and wrote “Fair,” encircled it and drew a line through it.Image

When another teacher demonstrated “unfair” with objects, pretending to take all the markers, the boy used his sign to show “No Fair!!”

I’ve been using the coveted sticky jewels as a way of stretching the idea that ONLY equal is fair. Cutting the strips in a variety of ways (different amounts of jewels, different sizes, same or mixed colors, as well as different shapes) I ask the children to take a specific number of strips for their project. This amount can be arbitrary or based on the amount of gems and number of children present. I then tell the children, “The amount of jewels on each strip are not equal, take those strips that you really want.”

I then ask, “Are you happy with what you have? Is it fair? Does it have to be equal; exactly the same? What if you are happy with less than other children have? Is that fair?”

I acknowledge all their responses.Image

I found that with those directions they didn’t fight or accuse each other of having more. Each chose what he or she wanted and seemed to be satisfied. If they wanted more than the designated amount of strips, I’d ask what their plans were.

One 5 year old needed just two more jewels to form the outer circle of her flower. It seemed “fair” to me to give permission for two more. While everyone at her table looked up, I took their silence as agreement.

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Something else I tried was to have the group decide on what was fair. When that day’s allotment of “two strips of jewels no matter what the size or amount” was not heeded by one of the children, a roar went up.

“She has much more than two strips,” came the cry of injustice. Looking at what they pointed out, I could see their point.Image

When I asked the group what would make it fair, they decided that everyone else should get two more strips. I agreed and the children were again content. But, a few minutes later the girl with an abundance of jewels on her project asked if she could have just one more. “It’s not for my folder,” she said earnestly, “I need just one heart for another project I’m doing with my friend. I have a jewel heart inside my sticker heart and need just one more for the other sticker heart.”

I turned the decision over to the group asking if they thought that would be fair, since it was for her friend. “Does everyone feel OK with giving her just one more heart shaped gem?”

“That’s OK with me,” one girl answered.

“Doesn’t bother me,” said a 5 year old boy.

One by one the children voiced their approval of one more jewel… until another voice was heard, “Well, it’s not OK with me!” Before she could express why she felt this way, another child pointed out that this girl didn’t have any jewels.

“Oh, you don’t have any. Did you want some?” I asked. “Yes, I do,” she answered, and a friend spontaneously brought over the box of sticky jewels.

“Can I have the heart jewel now,” asked the child who needed just one more.

“You can,” was the reply.

“Sometimes, when we get what we need, we feel more generous,” I commented.

Guidelines:

When there are special supplies that are in demand, we can offer them in different sizes, shapes and amounts, asking the children to take what they really want. Some will say none, some will chose according to size or color or shape, and others will choose by the amount they will receive.

While it’s developmentally appropriate for young children to see “fair” as always equal, as teachers and parents we can help stretch their concept of fair.

Intrinsic Motivation, Resourcefulness and Open-Ended Materials

‘”Loose parts,'” as mentioned in my blog of May 3, 2013, describes a theory first proposed by Simon Nicholson regarding open-ended materials. These materials suggest no fixed direction other than what is imagined by the children themselves. Nicholson, and others who followed him, proposed that these materials empower our creativity.

Focus and concentration are enhanced by combining loose parts with intrinsic motivation, that comes from within the child.

Over a period of several weeks, I observed one five year old’s interest in fabric. She began by covering her feet in cloth squares and wrapping them with colored masking tape. Image

After several sessions of “shoe” making, she chose cardboard from the recycled materials and placed her shoe-covered foot on top. Voila! They became ice skates.Image

She slid around the room on her ice skates with great pleasure. When she returned for the next session, she chose a large piece of cardboard and began decorating it. Instead of fabric, she cut up strips of available paper and again wrapped her feet.Image

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Having a variety of open-ended materials available allowed her to continue pursuing her passionate ideas. This time she created a snowboard.Image

Her confidence and satisfaction with her projects grew with the challenges she gave herself.Image

An article on intrinsic motivation by the National Association of School Psychologists addresses some of the characteristics that develop when children are self-motivated.

  • Persistence: The ability to stay with the task. A highly-motivated child will stay involved for a long period of time. I’ve observed young children work steadily for 1.5 hours and put their project on a saving shelf for additional work at a later time. They learn persistence when they are successful at a challenging task.
  • Confidence: A developing ability to problem solve is the basis for motivation at this stage of development. Having the self-confidence to know that one can solve a problem motivates the learner to accept other new and challenging situations, which in turn leads to greater learning.
  • Independence: The decreased amount of dependency on adults is another indicator of self- motivation. Children with strong intrinsic motivation do not need an adult constantly watching and helping with activities. Since independence is an important aspect of quality learning, this decreased dependence on adults will greatly enhance children’s ability to succeed in school.
  • Positive Emotion: As written in the article, “The last indicator of motivational level is emotion. Children who are clearly motivated will have a positive display of emotion. They are satisfied with their work and show more enjoyment in the activity.”

Concentration and focus are greatly enhanced when children are self-motivated. Providing a variety of open-ended materials for creative expression expands intrinsic motivation. For children to discover and explore their interests and passions at an early age informs their course of self-study and choices for a lifetime.

 

Scaffolding

Instructional scaffolding is a learning process designed to promote a deeper level of learning. It is the support given during the learning process that is tailored to the needs of the student with the intention of helping the student achieve his/her learning goals (Sawyer, 2006).

From Wikipedia:

Scaffolding comes from Lev Vygotsky’s concept of an expert assisting a novice, or an apprentice. Though the term was never used by Vygotsky, interactional support and the process by which adults mediate a child’s attempts to take on new learning has come to be termed “scaffolding.” Scaffolding represents the helpful interactions between adult and child that enable the child to do something beyond his or her independent efforts. A scaffold is a temporary framework that is put up for support and access to meaning and taken away as needed when the child secures control of success with a task.

In expressive arts, where the art-making is child-generated, I use scaffolding with laser precision, though only when appropriate and after I carefully discover what the child has in mind. A combination of knowing the child, the delivery of suggestion, the child’s readiness, and timing go into whether the child will allow for the scaffolding.

A 4 year old made a paper bag puppet with sticker eyes and a wonderful jagged-line mouth. As he’d left the body of the bag bare, I asked if he’d like to make clothes for it. He was excited and chose a piece of fabric. The difficulty of cutting the fabric soon became evident.

I asked if he’d prefer to make it from paper, to which he readily agreed. He chose a piece of orange paper and snipped two triangles off the corners. “Oh look, it’s underpants.” He smiled, recognizing what his cutting had unintentionally created. With that, he carefully cut a long piece of orange masking tape and attached it to the bottom of the bag. He snipped another triangle and called it a hat.

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The boy then decided to use a bench as a puppet theater and taped the puppet to the back of the bench. The little spark that occurred as a result of scaffolding grew into a fire of creativity.

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Often it is the children themselves who scaffold. When a 3 year old shivered in fright and asked me to put away the larger-than-child-sized Turtle puppet, I first explained what it was made of. (fabric, buttons, shoulder pads, etc.). I wanted her to know that it was not alive, although it seemed to be. Then, I folded Turtle back into his shell and put him away on the rocking chair, telling the puppet, “When the children are no longer afraid, you can come out and play.” I used my “Turtle voice” to let the children know that Turtle did hope to become their friend as he’d never, ever hurt them.

I’m not afraid of you,” said one of the children. “I’m going to play with you now. I’ll make something for you. Snowflakes!” She went to the shelf where the stuffing was kept and began to tear it into snowball-sized pieces. She put them all in a paper bag and brought it over to the rocking chair.

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Showering Turtle with snow caught the attention of other children, who then helped her pile snowballs on top of Turtle.

As they played and laughed, the child who had been scared came closer to the large puppet. She whispered to me that she had made something with arms for him. She wanted me to deliver it on him, while she remained at a distance.

As the other children continued to have fun piling the snow, the girl drew closer and closer. Soon, she, too, was putting snow atop Turtle.Image

“We love your shell, Turtle. We wish we could get inside with you. Once we didn’t like you. We were afraid. But now you are our friend.”

Sometimes, an older child can scaffold the next steps with more ease than us adults. An alum visited expressive arts recently. She took a break from puppet making to explore the room. “Turtle,” she said softly, upon discovering her old friend. “I used to love Turtle. I’m still like that.”

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She began to animate the large puppet and interact with the younger children. “Who wants to give me a high five,” she said wiggling Turtle’s fingers. The 3 year olds, who had previously shown no interest in the large and rather unusual puppet, hesitantly came forward. The older girl continued speaking in her “Turtle voice,” and soon those with finished puppets came forward and began playing with Turtle.Image

Later, as she was leaving with a box full of her work, she said with all the wisdom of her 10 years, “I have the brain of a kid and the mind of an artist. Without art, my life is dull.”Image

Product Recommendations from Discount School Supply®:

Make Your Own Animal Puppets – Kit for 12

Colorations® Eye Stickers – 2000 Pieces

9″ x 12″ Colorations® Heavyweight Construction Paper

1/2″ Colored Masking Tape – Set of 10

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

Entering Play: A Social Skill

“Can I play with you?” is often heard throughout our classrooms and school yards. This seemingly simple request can quickly become a lament when new children are stopped from joining the play in progress. While excluding is often a means of exerting power or defining friendships, it can also be sourced from a fear of the new person changing the play.

Entering play is a social skill that can be learned with our repeated facilitation.

  • Ask the child if they’d like some help
  • Observe the play in progress with the child
  • Inquire as to what the play is about. What characters are the children portraying?
  • Ask what would add to the play in progress? What else might be needed, whether it’s another character or a prop.
  • Stand by to see if they’ll need additional help.
  • Validate their efforts.

Three children were playing family. They were riding in a car they’d formed from a wooden bench.

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(Note the “blankets,” as San Francisco temperatures fell to freezing that week!)

“It’s not ok for you to fight,” said the child playing the mother. “You have to be kind. Mommy is going to sit down next to you,” the child told her “children.”

Another child was observing them from nearby. He loves animals and had been playing with a frog puppet until the dramatic play caught his attention. While he had been perfectly content to be animating his puppet, I wondered if he might want to join in. When I asked him, he nodded agreement, but remained still and continued watching.

I began to softly sing a song to him to the tune of “This Old Man.”

Connect your idea

To the play

Then everyone will say hurray!

Friends are friends through thick and thin,

Play together we all win!

It was a tune that a classroom teacher and I had collaborated on as a way of encouraging children to enter play with successful outcomes.

“You could ask them if they might need a pet frog in the family,” I suggested, as a way to add his unique play to theirs. “See if they can use that idea. I’ll watch.”

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“No, thank you,” was the reply from “mom.” For the older children, I offer or brainstorm other suggestions. With the youngest, if a coaching suggestion has been turned down, I often step in and help facilitate.

“He’d like to play with you, who can he be in the family?” The game initiator suggested that he be the daddy.

“Would you like to be the daddy?” I asked. He thought for a moment, then told me, “No, I have a daddy at home.” And with that he turned and walked away to continue playing happily with the frog puppet. I forget at times just how real their play can be. And while we may try to scaffold, ultimately it is the child who decides.

As written in the blog of Dec 4, 2013, one child’s idea for making a “sewing machine” continues to attract many of his peers.

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They each have a ball of yarn and invent ways of connecting and weaving and pulling on the yarn to create movement.

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Not all the children have learned to enter play in a way that keeps the original idea moving forward. I observed a child picking up scissors and moving toward the string-structure of his peers with a mischievous gleam in his eye.

He had been about to connect to the play by cutting the string that the other children had joyfully placed. In this instance, I intervened by coaching him with several open-ended questions:

  • What do you think will happen if you cut down the string?
  • How will the children feel?
  • Did you want the children to be upset, or did you just want to join in their fun?
  • What could you do instead?

He decided to exchange the scissors for a ball of yarn and was welcomed into the activity.

Learning how to enter play successfully is a life skill. Once inside the play, we can offer our ideas with a better chance of creating collaborative change.

Observing and Sharing Competencies

Our school was recently graced with early childhood expert Deb Curtis, who did a presentation for a staff development workshop. One aspect of her “thinking lens” for reflection is that of children’s competencies. (Harvest Resources Associates)

Observing children’s actions through the lens of what they were capable of, including what we don’t initially see as such, sparked my thinking.

While we often share with parents and other staff members anecdotes about children’s learning, less often do we bring the children themselves into the conversation. Since Deb’s presentation, I have been increasing my comments directly to the children.

In particular, I am noticing the growth in what they are able to accomplish. Sometimes I offer them a memory, such as, “I remember when you were learning to cut tape. It’s not easy to work with sticky masking tape that often gets stuck on the scissor or tangled before you can attach it.”

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“You were so proud. I remember you shouting, ‘I did it!’ You kept cutting more and more pieces, and shouting, ‘I did it!’ each time. Then you learned to use the tape to connect tubes. Your smile was just as wide as when you learned to cut tape. And now, you can create amazing designs with those same materials. You’re still using tubes and tape. But, look what you are able to do with them!”

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From making designs with tubes and tape, this same child stretched his exploring to create designs with the tape itself.

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Another child, who had recently become interested in recycled materials, quickly began to expand the size and purpose of his art. He went from handheld objects to those he could put his whole body into.

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E-mailing home photos and text of observations and appreciations widens the circle of encouragement. It brings in the perspectives of the parents and family members and strengthens the bridge between school and home.

By modeling appreciation for their growth and authenticity, we give children a framework for valuing their own experience and learning. Hopefully, it can assist in creating a structure not based on comparison with others, but rather on appreciating their own interest, progress and mastery. By doing this, we help set our children on course for a lifetime of authentic learning, as well as greater inner peace and happiness.

GUIDELINES:

1. Observations:

Making time to observe the world of children and what they are mastering is invaluable. While I am privileged to work with small groups, where witnessing each child’s learning is simpler, the classroom teachers have observations built into their schedules. Hats off to the leadership of our director!

For those of you who are interested in this practice, I have a couple of suggestions:

  • Work with your teammates to create a regular observation time. You could observe a small group of children, while your teammates have the remainder of the children in your outside space. While a 1/2 hour is recommended, even 15 minutes will be of benefit.
  • If separating the group to be observed is not possible, have your teammates be responsible for the majority of the children while you observe a smaller group. Trading off being the observer will keep things fair.
  • You might want to wear a sign that designates you as an observer so that the children get used to your silent witnessing. At first, they will likely ask you lots of questions and try to engage you. You can let them know that you’re doing important work: watching all the amazing things they do. You can tell them that you’d be glad to share your observations with them afterwards.

2. Recycled and Open Ended Materials

The same recycled materials can be an ongoing source of engagement for children. I remember thinking that the children would never stay interested in toilet paper and paper towel tubes. I am happy to report my error. These easily collected loose parts remain favorites.

For lenses of observation and many other wonderful ways of viewing children’s play as connected to learning and development theories and research, I enthusiastically recommend Reflecting Children’s Lives: A Handbook for Planning Your Child-Centered Curriculum by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter (Redleaf Press, 2011).

Story-Making: Storytelling with Puppets and Art

“Here Crow, come and sit in this chair while I make your sparkly babies,” said the very articulate three year old to the puppet she just befriended. “When the blue comes alive, then it will be done.”

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She was referring to the sparkly blue pipe cleaners she was twisting into the shape of a baby bird for the crow puppet.

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Soon, three other children joined her in building a nest for Crow and the sparkly babies. Afterwards they flew the crows around the room and then return to nest building.

Story-making is what I call this version of improvisational storytelling. They may begin with a puppet or start with a prop, as illustrated by the “sparkly babies.” The making of the prop opens the creative door for puppet improvisation. And the improvisation produces the need for more props to add to the play.

Story-making is a process of using collaborative puppet play, art from loose parts (see blog of May 15, 2013.) and the children’s imaginations to create a story that comes to life. They act in it, stop to make props and puppets, and then return to the story. At times there is an informal audience, watching. Usually, there are only the adult observers, us, enjoying the “show.”

In 1996, story-making began as a practice to encourage cooperative play. The children used puppets, props and improvisations. It was also used to develop oral language and storytelling with small groups of children. Decades later, small groups of children still enjoy adding this form of storytelling to their play.

The meaningful play initiated by this three year old continued beyond the classroom. She made an owl with her mom at her older sister’s school. She brought it to school, days later, so that “Owl “could be friends with “Crow.” Friendship is a very important theme with preschoolers.

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Not only did the children play with her owl but, they were inspired to make puppets of their own.

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“Where’s his smile?” a child asked, studying her paper bag puppet. She picked up an oil pastel and drew a line under the sticky eyes she’d placed on the brown lunch bag. “Oh, that’s a sad face,” she frowned at the curved line she had drawn.

She tried again saying hesitantly, “That’s a happy face.” Observing her attempts to make the line curve upwards she said, “No, it’s a mustache. Let’s call him Grandpa Owl. He’s the sparkly babies’ grandfather.”

She then placed the newest owl in the rocking chair and took down the Crow puppet from its window seat. “They’re friends and are going to have a play date.”

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She then placed the bag puppet on her hand and flew it over to the table. Taking it off, she was delighted to see that it remained vertical. “I didn’t know a paper owl could stand up!” she exclaimed gleefully.

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These improvisational stories allow the youngest children to play out their first flights of independence from their own “nests” via the preschool experience.  Stories are not only important teachers, they inform us of what the children themselves find most meaningful including making friends and inviting them home for play dates.

GUIDELINES:

I. Collaborative Puppet Play:

  1. Initiating Ideas: you can introduce a specific theme, such as making friends, inclusion/exclusion or being kind, by either telling about something that happened between the puppets or acting it out for the children yourself. (see September 16, 2013 blog: Playing with Puppets and Children)

Having been a witness and facilitator of the children’s developmentally appropriate conflict, teachers and parents can show or tell what happened between the children using puppets. When you come to places of choice, ask the children for suggestions.

Once you’ve gathered some of the children’s own ideas and contributed some wise ones of your own, it’s the children’s turn to use the puppets.

Being creative yourself and knowing your children, you will think of many different ways to get started. Once the children are engaged, you become the observer, facilitating when necessary.

  1. Art-Making: Depending on the kind of puppets used, you could suggest that the children first make something for the puppets, as the 3 year old began by making nests and sparkly babies for Crow.
  1. Back to puppet play: Sometimes the children will do this naturally. Otherwise, you can facilitate by interviewing a puppet. Your scaffolding brings out both the character of the puppet and moves the story line along. There are no expectations for a complete story in collaborative puppet play. Children combine improvisations or story pieces with art-making and decide when the activity is complete.

Teaching moments will likely occur.  Feel free to insert yourself into the story if there’s an important point to make.  Otherwise, step back and enjoy the good work you’ve done readying the children for creative collaboration. The story-making can continue as long as the children stay engaged.

II. Materials:

Materials are made available for the children’s use during their play. Depending on the puppets used, materials may reflect their environments, food, etc. Loose parts for puppet-making can be included, as the children often spontaneously create more puppets during or after their play.

Some examples of materials: Small paper bags, colored feathers, self-adhesive eyes, glue sticks, colored paper, colored Popsicle sticks, colored masking tape, yarn, string, shiny pipe cleaners and any other loose parts you have or can gather.

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Next time you take out the materials, they may go back to the same story or create a new one, with more of what is meaningful to them disclosed.

Witnessing the children’s exploration with puppets is so joyful. No wonder I am beginning my 28th year of learning with them.

Playing with Puppets and Children

Here we are, back to school! You’ve likely prepared in many ways to create a comfortable atmosphere for the children new to your classroom. You may already use puppets to bridge the gap into the children’s world and help welcome them. If you don’t, this topic is especially for you.

Working with young children, you are already masters of improvisation. Working with puppets can be a natural extension of what you do every day.

Some of us are natural animators. We can pick up a sock, a stuffed animal, or a piece of cheese and give it a voice and movement. At the other end of the scale are those of us who are intimidated by using puppets in our classrooms or homes. We may feel self-conscious or simply think it is out of our skill range. But, if there’s even a spark of desire to use puppets, it’s worth navigating the process of getting comfortable with using them.

The concepts and practices I’m sharing were developed for a class at San Francisco State University. At the time, I was performing with life-sized woven puppets, including one called Ms. Tree. She was a scary and very unusual looking tree (birds were afraid to nest in her branches).

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I often used Ms. Tree to illustrate making friends with what or who we are afraid of. Getting to know those who appear different from us encourages inclusion. (Of course, for preschoolers on the first day of school, I’d suggest using a friendlier-looking puppet.)

To Begin:

Before engaging in collaborative puppet play with children, let’s prepare ourselves with solo adult play. Start by choosing a puppet that you are attracted to. Your home or classroom likely offers many choices. There are many inexpensive and expressive ones that you can purchase. You can also make one of your own from socks, material scraps, or found/recycled materials.

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I. GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR PUPPET

Before engaging with the children, you will need to get comfortable with your puppet. Start by noticing your own levels of comfort or discomfort as you get ready to play with your puppet. If puppetry is a new tool, you will gain valuable insight into what we ask children to do day after day.

Our own experience deepens our understanding of what children may experience. It’s certainly helped me gain greater compassion for their resilience and willingness for ongoing learning. Our adult play becomes a bridge to the child’s world. An additional benefit of naming and navigating our emotions is that it becomes an avenue of developing the puppets character.

Remember dancing endlessly in front of your adolescent mirror before going out on the dance floor? Practice at home. When most uncomfortable, I think of all the things we ask children to do that they’ve never done before. It also gives me insight into the many ways we can respond to something new. And then I practice until the awkwardness diminishes.

Movement:

There is a range of movement that will be unique to each puppet. Play with it; see what is possible. Does it have a full body that is capable of varied movement you can explore? Or are there only a few parts of the puppet that are moveable? Does it have a mouth that opens when you speak? Or will you have to demonstrate who is talking by some gesture or slight movement when it interacts with another puppet?

Voice:

Explore and find a voice you can sustain without strain. I’ve discovered some varied and interesting voices through trying on different ones, but some chatty puppets cause my voice to strain. You want to enjoy this and create as much ease as possible.

Once you find a voice that fits your vocal range, you can strengthen it by having the puppet become a “tour guide.” Move through your home, having it point out things of interest. You can have it tell stories of where items came from. Using memories or future plans, let your puppet speak aloud. It may seem awkward at first, but it is all part of gaining a certain level of comfort before you leap into working with children.

Developing a Character:

If we are willing to lean into either our discomfort or our sense of fun and curiosity, we will discover everything we need to enliven our puppets.

Feeling shy? Have the puppet move in ways that express this through movement or voice. Would it hide behind you? Whisper to you? Stay inside its shell? I’ve made a family of turtles that I’ve used for years to express both shyness and “sticking your neck out.”

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How would your puppet move if frustrated, angry, sad, insecure or excited? Use the feelings you notice in yourself to give life to the puppet. The feelings we embody are also expressed through behavior we’ve observed from the children themselves. The puppets become relatable to the children when you enliven them in this way.

II. STRETCHING BEYOND YOUR COMFORT LEVEL

Once you are comfortable, you’re ready to have your puppet interact with children. You might want to start with one or two children. It could be your own, your neighbor’s, young relatives or any of the children new to your classroom.

What Makes You Feel Better:
Have the children interview the puppet. In the process you’ll continue to develop its character. You can pretend the puppet is a new student at school. It can be the puppet’s first day as well. Have it express the myriad of feelings a child may have from withdrawal to elation.

With a withdrawn child, you can have the puppet ask for help. “What makes you feel better when feeling shy or uncertain?” The puppet may have to supply the answers, asking whether holding a stuffy, sitting on a lap, drawing a picture or writing a letter home to parents helps. In the process of the interview, you will learn much about what makes that child more comfortable.

When You Were My Age:
Have the children ask something they’d like to know about the puppet when it was their age. There are no incorrect answers. You might want to use your own childhood or those of your children.

Again, you may prefer to have the puppet whisper to you as if shy, and you speak the answers. Empathy develops with the puppet as you express more of how it feels and speaks of childhood events. Expressing vulnerability and transparency through the puppet is a way to create rapport between child and puppet

III. READY, SET, LEAP

Chatting with Puppets:

I often use this exercise for the first day of school and many of the days that follow.

Children will often talk to puppets with more ease and confidence than they might an adult new to their life. They are more open and willing to share their thoughts and feelings. A puppet is a “door” into a child’s world.

The more you practice and play with your puppet and children, the more you’ll learn about it. As you build its character, it takes on a life of its own. At times, I am convinced that I’m simply standing back and watching. I often have to stop myself from laughing aloud at the unplanned antics.

Each of us has a reservoir of creativity within. We also have a storehouse of behaviors that we’ve observed in our children. Some of us will intentionally emulate the children and some of us will intuitively call forth movement, gestures and often the children’s own words.

In the process of playing with puppets and children, you may find great enjoyment, fun and possibly a new passion!

Resource: Jacobs, Elyse. “Puppet Play Explores Feelings and Emotions,” Scholastic Pre-K Today, 1989.

Below are some product recommendations, from Discount School Supply, to get you started:

Excellerations™ Tabletop Puppet Theater

Excellerations™ Standing Puppet Theater

Animal Hand Puppets – Set of 12

Around The World Puppets – Set of 6

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