By Linda Wilson @LinWilsonauthor
When my daughters were two and four, I used my skills as an elementary teacher and did the usual: read to and with them, had them color while listening to stories and music, took them to Story Time at the library. . . and created puppet shows.
On her website, “Empowered Parents,” Tanja Mcilroy says: “Playing with puppets is one of the most educational activities you can expose your kids to. Watching a child play with a puppet may seem like fun and entertainment, but play with puppets is so much more. When you realize all the additional benefits of this activity you may want to keep a basket of puppets available at home or in your classroom.”
I had such fun with puppets with my children (now in their 30’s) that I’m circling back to this enjoyable way to share stories with children. Here are some ways to enhance your children’s creativity that worked for me.
Start a Puppet Ministry
Church is a great place to start by creating a Puppet Ministry. It’s where I got my start. A volunteer left handmade puppets and a puppet stage forgotten in a storage room at my church. They’d been sitting there for years. The church secretary told me that having puppets is easy, but finding someone who wants to use them is the difficult part. Having these materials already available helped me a lot. But I didn’t have any plays. I began gathering puppet plays from books and writing my own plays, which I will now make available to my readers.
If you have to start from scratch, there are lots of resources too numerous to list here to help you get started. The important thing is that you’re interested and thinking about giving puppets a try.
Watch Your Own Creativity Blossom
Once I took on the Puppet Ministry, I found that creating the puppets and props that I needed for my stories was loads of fun, not to mention writing the plays and putting on the shows. This project enhanced my own creativity, an outcome I hadn’t expected, which eventually led me to write the stories I write today.
Easy Steps to Begin
First, get organized. While my daughters were so young, I didn’t do a lot for myself. Sound familiar? So, many loose papers were piled in my kitchen and in general, the rest of my life was unorganized. First, while my daughters were napping, I organized the papers into a filing system. I organized everything else in plastic organizers. Once I got that done, I bought books (this is before the Internet—you’ll be able to gather resources much faster and much more easily). I organized the materials I was collecting into labelled files—labelled because it’s so important to know where your resources are, a practice I still find challenging today—and made my move. I collected the puppets I had on hand, and at church one day mentioned them. Voilà! In a heartbeat I had inherited the puppets and stage!
Tip #1 of the day: You don’t need a puppet stage to get terrific results from putting on a puppet show for kids. They forget you’re there and focus only on the puppets and story.
Tip #2 of the day: Stuffed animals work great as puppets, too, and are a great supplement to a puppet collection.
My very favorite way to present a puppet play: The background for your play is a simple piece of cardboard that will fit in your lap (12”x14”), you wear like a necklace around your neck, and that you decorate to fit your story. You staple the ribbon at the top, fit the piece of cardboard on your lap, and tie the ribbon around your neck. My little actors were finger puppets that I created from cutting off the tops of fingers in old gloves, decorated with wiggly eyes and whatever else I could think of. Of course, there are many other ways to make tiny puppets like these, such as paper puppets on popsicle sticks, decorated to fit your story. I propped the story that I had typed out in large letters a little off to the side on a desk, and read it while my puppets acted out the play.
Two great puppet companies, both available on Amazon: Folkmanis Puppets and Sweet Gifts. I’ve purchased puppets from both companies and have found the prices very reasonable.
In coming posts, I will share more ideas that were successful for me, and perhaps you could share your ideas by writing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In coming posts I’m going to share more about puppets and also the plays I’ve collected, so please be sure and sign up for my newsletter on my website: https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com.
My puppet play for A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift is available with purchase of the signed packrat book on my website: https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com.
Cardboard background idea is from a puppeteer whose book, unfortunately, is out of print.