Puppet Play 10 ways

Puppets are a fun and exciting way to help children learn language and social skills. They allow children to learn to express themselves to and around others in a controlled and engaging way. There are endless varieties available and they can be used in so many ways! Some ways you can use puppets include:

  1. Developing the use of appropriate pronouns (he/she)

Pronouns can be a challenging concept to understand and learn, with some children using incorrect pronouns when talking. For example, they might use ‘he’ when talking about both girls and boys. You can use puppets to model the correct use of the words ‘he’ and ‘she’ through repetition. For example:

  • Describe the puppets. ‘She is wearing a skirt’ ‘She has blonde hair’ ‘He is wearing green shoes’
  • Have a teddy bears picnic with the puppets. ‘She is hungry, what could she eat?’ ‘She could have a sandwich’ ‘He is feeling very thirsty. What could he have to drink?’ ‘He could have drink of water.’

  1. Learning about winning and losing.

Winning and losing can be challenging for many children. Playing a simple board game using puppets teaches them that losing is okay. Allowing the child to be in control of both puppets avoids them personally winning or losing. When playing the game ask the child to help two puppets play a game. The child helps the puppets to play and you roll the dice. Following the game, you can role play what the puppets might say to each other:

  • Amy- “I feel sad because I lost.”
  • Mia- “That’s ok. You still played really well. I had fun playing with you.”
  • Amy- “Thanks, I had fun too.”
  • Mia- “Maybe you will win next time.”
  • Puppets high-five/shake hands and say ‘good game!’
  1. Expanding vocabulary

Increasing vocabulary can be challenging for children with communication difficulties. Using puppets can provide a visual representation of new words – there are so many puppets available, you can use different ones to teach different things!

  • Animal finger puppets can be used to teach animal names, animal body parts, animal noises, colours, patterns (eg. spots, stripes).
  • Other puppets can be used to teach different vocabulary such as clothing, food, occupations, concepts including size (big/small, long/short)

  1. Understanding similarities and differences

Children with communication difficulties may find it challenging to identify similarities and differences without explicit teaching. Similarities are often easier to pick then differences.

  • Using two puppets, you can teach similarities and differences by comparing the two. Look at their hair colour, eye colour, clothing, size (big nose/small nose), length (long hair/short hair) and talk about these things.
  • Encourage your child to look for similarities and differences between themselves and the puppet. Are you wearing the same colour shoes? What about your hair? Is it similar or different?
  1. Role playing socially appropriate behaviours

Developing social skills can be difficult for some children, including those on the autism spectrum, and may require specific teaching and support to interact appropriately with others. Puppets are particularly useful tools in teaching social skills, as you are in control of the situation and can target specific scenarios.

A social story can be read first and then use the puppets to role play the behaviours learnt in the story. Some of the social behaviours and life skills that can be targeted include:

  • Turn taking
  • Sharing
  • Greetings
  • A and B choices
  • Personal space
  • Listening when others are talking
  • Stranger danger
  • Safely crossing the road

6. Establishing eye contact and greetings

Some children find it difficult to use appropriate eye contact and it can be a difficult skill to teach. Two puppets can be used to demonstrate appropriate vs inappropriate eye contact, through role-playing a conversation. Ask your child to help identify whether the amount of eye contact between the puppets, during the conversation, was too little, too much or just right.

Then you can discuss why the use of eye contact is important. For example, if one puppet was looking up at the roof during the conversation, you could ask your child “Did they look like they were listening?”

Next, you can ask your child to participate in a conversation with the puppet and maintain appropriate eye contact.

7. Understanding action words

Children need to learn to use action words (verbs) in order to move from producing single words and phrases to using sentences.

Using verbs with puppets can be fun and exciting. You and your child can model the puppet performing actions such as eating, drinking, sleeping, hopping, jumping, walking, running, playing, laughing, coughing, singing, etc.

Once action words have been taught, they can be used to develop phrases. For example, using a subject and verb (e.g. Girl jumping, Harry eating) or with a verb and object (eg. walking home, eating cake).

8. Developing past tense verb

Past tense is necessary to indicate when something has already happened. This is used when telling stories or recounting events.

First demonstrate the action using the puppet. You can then ask your child ‘What did Sally just do?’ They can then answer ‘She walked’. This might take some time to practice and develop, particularly with irregular verbs.

  • Regular verbs end in -ed. These include hopped, jumped, walked, played, laughed, coughed.
  • Irregular verbs include ate, drank, slept, ran, sung, drew.

9. Developing Imaginative play skills

Puppets provide children with the opportunity to be creative by allowing them to role play different occupations and explore life skills. Play is essential for developing language, thinking, motor skills and social skills. For example, doctor or vet play is a great activity to develop these skills. The child takes on the role of the doctor and the puppets are the child’s patient.

Another activity may include food preparation and cooking for the puppets. This can use additional props from the kitchen to support creativity.

10. Reinforcing speech sound practice and handwriting practice!

Puppets are a great motivator to use when completing home practice. When practicing your child’s speech sounds you can try feeding the puppets the sound cards after each production. You can also try feeding the puppets pretend food or other homework tasks.

Looking for more fun ways to learn? Our website has a range of downloadable information sheets, printable activities and useful links. To connect with our community of families, therapists and educators join us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Need support for your child? Talking Matters provides assessment, diagnosis, therapy and support for children with a wide range of needs including developmental delays, learning and literacy challenges, speech and language delays, motor skill and sensory issues and children on the autism spectrum and their families. We are providers under the NDIA. We provide speech pathology, occupational therapy, social skills and a range of other service offerings to support families. We provide services in local schools and our disability consultant can help teachers support children who are experiencing difficulties in school. To find out more about our services and our team visit our website.

If you would like further information about our services please browse our website or call our office on (08) 8255 7137 and we would be happy to help you.

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