by Amber Hodgson, M.A., CCC-SLP
A puppet is an object that a person controls through finger/hand movements, sticks,
or strings. Puppets usually represent human or animal figures. Many people look
at puppets only as toys or playthings. However, puppets can actually provide numerous
learning experiences! Puppets encourage children to use creativity and their imaginations.
As well, puppets get their attention and hold their interest, all while supporting
deeper, multi-sensory learning. So, with your children, try your hand at puppetry
and have fun while learning!
Puppets do not have to be expensive or complex. You can even make them yourself.
They can be made out of just about anything, such as socks, tongue depressors, sticks,
straws, paper bags, foam, or felt. Also, if you have a large cardboard box, you
can make a simple puppet theater. Having a designated area for puppet shows is a
great way to inspire creative play. Children benefit from having a special area
where they can go to let their imaginative play take place. A puppet theater is
a fun and functional item to include in their play area.
A Puppet’s Possibilities
Children who have regular opportunities for pretend play have a rich environment
that stimulates and reinforces language development. Below are some fun ways to
incorporate puppets into language learning.
Puppets and Books! Puppets are wonderful teaching tools, especially when they help
bring books to life! Many characters in children’s books are animals. You may find
puppets in a store that represent the characters in books. Use these puppets as
you read the story to your children or simply as fun props that your children can
hold on to as they listen to the story. Another fun way to use puppets with books
is to have your children make their own puppets to represent the characters they
just learned about in the story. They can use these personalized puppets the next
time you read the story!
Puppets and Talking! Puppets can be great tools for speech and language development.
Many children can be hesitant to talk in speech/language therapy. Giving children
their own special puppets that they can use to talk and answer questions with can
make them more comfortable. Using puppets in stuttering (fluency) and voice therapy
may help children increase their easy speech or demonstrate improved vocal quality,
as they may feel more comfortable talking through the puppets. In articulation or
apraxia therapy, puppets can help show children correct tongue placement to make
Puppets and Social Skills! Puppets can be useful in helping children improve their
social skills. You can use puppets to help teach appropriate behaviors, such as
good manners and turn-taking. Children can work on maintaining conversations and
role-playing different social situations between puppets. You can also explain different
emotions with puppets. As well, it can be more motivating for them to talk if they
feel like they are talking to a friendly puppet, instead of a person who may “judge”
Puppets and Game Play! Puppets can be motivating for children to help them complete
tasks and play games. For example, children can “feed” game cards to a puppet after
completion of a task. In addition, puppets can be an incentive for children to participate
if they get to use the puppet’s mouth to roll the dice, spin the spinner, or move
their gameboard pieces.