Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Puppet Mania

Using Pup­pets to Enhance the Sto­ry­time Expe­ri­ence

Any­one who does any­thing to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ”

― Fred Rogers

Mr. Z with two of his puppets

Mr. Z with two of his pup­pets

I recent­ly watched Won’t You Be My Neigh­bor, the new doc­u­men­tary on the life and career of Fred Rogers … Mis­ter Rogers. At the con­clu­sion of the doc­u­men­tary, I reflect­ed on how he shone a light on the role sto­ry­telling has in our ser­vice to chil­dren and fam­i­lies. At the start of every show, Mis­ter Rogers joined the audi­ence at 143, his numero­log­i­cal code for “I love you.” Rogers pro­vid­ed a wel­com­ing envi­ron­ment where every audi­ence mem­ber was invit­ed to trav­el to the Neigh­bor­hood of Make-Believe, where the audi­ence met pup­pet friends Daniel Tiger and Lady Elaine Fairchilde, to name two of them. Each pup­pet por­trayed real feel­ings and real expe­ri­ences.

Through­out my expe­ri­ence as a children’s librar­i­an, pup­pets have been essen­tial tools for con­nect­ing with fam­i­lies. Here’s a pup­pet toolk­it to help you bring pup­pets into your sto­ry­time pro­gram or to enhance your cur­rent work with pup­pets. This toolk­it is based on my expe­ri­ence. Add or edit the toolk­it to meet your needs.

The Pup­pet Toolk­it

Tool #1: Pup­pet Pur­pose: Think about the pur­pose a pup­pet will serve for your sto­ry­time pro­gram. Some ques­tions to con­sid­er:

  1. Does the pup­pet align with a theme or does it need to align with a theme?
  2. Will the pup­pet help facil­i­tate the pro­gram?
  3. Will you have one or mul­ti­ple pup­pets in the pro­gram?
  4. Will you use ani­mal or peo­ple pup­pets?
  5. Where will you use the pup­pet in your sto­ry­time (at the begin­ning, mid­dle, end, or through­out the sto­ry­time?

Tool #2: Find­ing or Cre­at­ing a Pup­pet: Search for places to pur­chase pup­pets or ideas on how to cre­ate a pup­pet. In doing a sim­ple search, you can find sev­er­al pup­pet dis­trib­u­tors. Search at com­mu­ni­ty yard sales or a local thrift store. Many of us, includ­ing myself, are on tight bud­gets and it may be dif­fi­cult to pur­chase pup­pets. There are many resources for mak­ing pup­pets. Here are a few to get you start­ed:

  1. A video from Par­ents Mag­a­zine on how to make a sock pup­pet.
  2. A pup­pet craft tuto­r­i­al from Danielle’s Place 
  3. Mak­ing Home­made Pup­pets” from Savay Home­made 
  4. A sim­ple Pin­ter­est search.

Tip: Always remem­ber to look in your library sup­ply clos­et before pur­chas­ing. Tell your com­mu­ni­ty about this project and the sup­plies need­ed. You might be sur­prised with dona­tions.

Mister Rogers stampTool #3: Embody­ing a Pup­pet: When watch­ing Mis­ter Rogers, it was easy to think, “I can’t embody a pup­pet like he does,” or “I don’t have any train­ing in pup­petry.” Let me set­tle your mind. Although I don’t have pup­pet train­ing, my audi­ence laughs and enjoys each pup­pet expe­ri­ence. What does it mean to embody a pup­pet? Once you decide to pur­chase or make a puppet(s), fol­low these steps:

  1. Refer back to the first tool: think about the pur­pose of pup­pets in your sto­ry­time.
  2. Prac­tice hold­ing the pup­pet and mov­ing it. Skills need­ed will dif­fer if put your hand through a hole or you hold the pup­pet with a stick.
  3. Prac­tice how your pup­pet will speak. Will it have your voice or will you cre­ate a voice?
  4. Prac­tice in front of a staff mem­ber or fam­i­ly mem­ber to get feed­back. Remem­ber, it is not about hav­ing a per­fect per­for­mance. It’s impor­tant to be com­fort­able and have fun.
  5. Will you inter­act with anoth­er pup­pet? If so, prac­tice! Will you oper­ate both pup­pets or will a staff mem­ber or fam­i­ly mem­ber be the oth­er pup­pet?

Tip: Search on YouTube for more videos on how oth­er libraries use pup­pets in their pro­grams,

Tip: Watch these two videos by librar­i­an and pup­peteer Kim­ber­ly Fau­rot on “Bring­ing Your Pup­pet to Life.”

Children playing with puppets

Tool #4: Pup­pet Inter­ac­tion with the Audi­ence: It’s impor­tant to think about your cur­rent audi­ence of chil­dren and fam­i­lies who attend sto­ry­time.

  1. What inter­ac­tion will the pup­pet have with chil­dren and fam­i­lies?
  2. Will the pup­pet ask ques­tions? If so, what ques­tions will it ask?
  3. Will chil­dren have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to pet or hug the pup­pet? This has been the most effec­tive use of pup­pets in my pro­grams. Chil­dren love to do this.
  4. Will the pup­pet ask chil­dren to help tell the sto­ry? For exam­ple, the pup­pet might ask chil­dren to bring some­thing to put on the felt board or it might tell them it is hun­gry and they need to look for food.
  5. How can the pup­pet be used for some­thing besides telling a sto­ry? You might use a pup­pet to help chil­dren and fam­i­lies relax before the sto­ries and activ­i­ties begin.
  6. Will the pup­pet inter­act with the adults? Can the adults help embody a pup­pet? Pup­pets can be an effec­tive tool for adult par­tic­i­pa­tion. As a pup­peteer, I inter­act with adults by ask­ing them ques­tions relat­ed to the sto­ry­time. I have had suc­cess in ask­ing adults to choose a pup­pet and inter­act with the audi­ence through­out sto­ry­time.

finger puppetsTool#5: Using Pup­pets to Inspire Cre­ativ­i­ty: Pup­pets are a great tool for inspir­ing cre­ativ­i­ty. I host­ed a pup­pet-mak­ing pro­gram for fam­i­lies to make their own pup­pets. Sup­plies were includ­ed:

  1. Paper bags (pro­vid­ed by a local gro­cery store) or $1.96 (50 count) priced online
  2. Stick­ers
  3. Crayons (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $5.04 for a pack of 12, priced online)
  4. Scis­sors (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $4.50 per one, priced online)
  5. Wood­en craft sticks (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $7.99 for a box of 200, priced online)
  6. Yarn (pro­vid­ed by a local moms group) (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $14.97 for assort­ed col­ors, priced online)
  7. Pom-poms (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $6.99 for a bag of 100, priced online
  8. Wig­gly eyes (could be no cost if you have them in your sup­ply clos­et, $6.25 for a bag of 200)

Poten­tial cost depend­ing on what’s in your sup­ply clos­et : $47.70

At the com­ple­tion of the pup­pet-mak­ing pro­gram, fam­i­lies gath­ered in our sto­ry­time room to meet the new pup­pets. Many par­ents helped their child intro­duce their pup­pet to the group.

The Pow­er of Pup­pets

Through­out my career as a children’s librar­i­an, my pup­petry expe­ri­ences have been pro­found. Dur­ing a sen­so­ry sto­ry­time pro­gram, a moth­er noticed I had pup­pets on the ground. She asked to speak with me briefly about her son who is on the autism spec­trum. She told me the dif­fi­cul­ty he has with objects like pup­pets because he can’t see where his hand is going. I under­stood com­plete­ly. At the con­clu­sion of our con­ver­sa­tion, we noticed her son on the floor play­ing with a few pup­pets on his hands. He was talk­ing with them, ask­ing them ques­tions. The moth­er start­ed to cry. We both smiled at each oth­er. Pup­pets can be mean­ing­ful for both child and par­ent.

Two sock puppets

Pup­pet Resources

  1. Why Pup­pet Play is Impor­tant,” Karen Whit­ter, Play & Grow, 4 Jan 2017
  2. Pup­pets Talk, Chil­dren Lis­ten,” Christie Belfiore, Teach, not dat­ed
  3. The Pow­er of Pup­pets: How Our Fuzzy Friends Help Kids Grow Social-Emo­tion­al Skills,” Car­olyn Sweeney Hauck, Explore. Play. Learn., Kinder­Care blog, 7 Feb 2018
  4. Pup­pet Scripts,” Pup­pets for Libraries, 19 Jan 2012
  5. Pup­pets and Sto­ry­time,” Dr. Jean Feld­man for Scholas­tic (PDF)
  6. Pup­pets for Non-Pup­pet Peo­ple,” Mal­lo­ry Inman, Mal­lo­ry Tells Sto­ries, 10 Jun 2015
  7. The Pup­petry Home Page,” Rose Sage Barone and Nick Barone
  8. Pup­pets, Lan­guage, and Learn­ing, a book by Jane Fish­er

Rec­om­mend­ed Sto­ries for Using Pup­pets

recommended books for puppet shoes

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