Simple entrances for spontaneous conversations

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How do you create spontaneous interaction with your hand puppet ?

You probably know it; you fell head over heels for a hand puppet. You saw a lot of possibilities in it,. Heard the children react enthusiastically and was sure that you could do beautiful things with it. You bought the puppet because you really wanted to use it in your work with children. You still want that. You still think it is a thing with possibilities and you still want to work with the puppet, But you also feel a threshold to use it. I have been working with hand puppets for more than 25 years and know that playing with a puppet isn’t that easy in the beginning. The most important question is: how do you get over the barriers you feel?

I want to give you some tips to help you interact with your hand puppet in a very simple way. You can use these tips if you haven’t started with your puppet yet, but also if you are already working with a puppet, and need some new input.

Use the spontaneous moments.

It’s the little things that matter, the day is full of perceptible moments that you can use as an entrance. For example:

  • a child who looks tired
  • a child who is sad
  • a rushed mother who forgets to say goodbye
  • a newcomer who still finds everything very scary
  • a child who has new clothes or has been to the hairdresser
  • a fight on the playground
  • a child’s birthday
  • a child who has just had a babybrother or -sister
  • a child who has been sick and is back
  • a child who has done something very remarkable
  • a child who has pushed a boundary
  • a child for the first time… (fill in)
  • etc.

Jump in on that with your puppet. A perceptive puppet declares that a child has been seen and implies that there is a bond between the child and the puppet, So let your puppet be attentive, let him speak out and ask questions about what he sees.

When the children in my class came in in the morning, my puppet was never there. He came in when the children were in the circle and the first thing he did in the circle was look around. He said nothing and just looked at the children for a moment. When he saw that someone had been to the hairdresser, he asked about it: ‘Have you been to the hairdresser?’ When he saw clothes he hadn’t seen before, he asked about them: ‘Do you have new shoes?’ If he thought someone looked very tired, he would ask: ‘Didn’t you sleep well?’, if a child was sad because mommy had left a bit curtly, my puppet asked ‘if maybe mommy had a lot to do today ‘, etc. The children told my puppet much more than they told me. That gave me the opportunity to better understand their way of thinking and acting, but that started by letting them know through my puppet that I had seen them.

‘The puppet must always come up with something new’ is a misconception.

There are countless possibilities to let a hand puppet introduce or discuss a new subject. The puppet can do an activity that’s part of your own program. Can play a game, can have a conversation about fruit while eating fruit, can show a book worth reading, can chat about a quarrel that arose or about a question which has no answer yet. It is much easier to start from the activities you already wanted to do one day than to come up with something new for the puppet to come up with because you would unnecessarily burden yourself with working with the puppet . So start from what is already there.

What I do myself is look at my weekly program and ask myself in which activities my puppet could participate. For example, I let the new books I want to introduce this week do through my puppet. My puppet has been to the library and found some nice books there that she wants to show. The advantage of this is that children are immediately interested in the books my puppet shows. More than when I do it myself (if you don’t believe me, feel free to try it out….). I choose to let my puppet introduce an activity around letters because children show a lot more of themselves in the presence of the puppet. They are less afraid of making mistakes also. Or I can let the puppet choose a game that is usually ignored by the children, maybe I discover why that is. The puppet ‘s approach is that he has seen the game in the cupboard and wants to know how it should be played.

I pick a few moments when the puppet will appear and think of what my puppet can do that moments. Especially in the beginning, this is a way to challenge yourself to think about the input of the puppet and to create low-risk practice situations for yourself. Because only by doing you will discover that it is not that complicated and that the presence of the puppet brings fantastic moments.

Most spontaneous interaction arises from being in the moment, so look at what is there and jump into it.

Thank you for reading.

I'm a teacher, trainer, developer, hand puppetcoach and author of the book "The Handpuppet as an educational tool". I want to inspire you and help you to use a puppet in class. I'm sure the hand puppet makes a big difference in the life of a child, but also in your life. I hope you're gonna enjoy that just as much as I am.

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