Learning positive social skills with puppet play

Many beneficial skills can result from participating in puppet play.

Using puppet play is a great way to teach positive social skills to children. You don’t need fancy puppets to teach problem solving skills. If you do not have access to puppets, Michigan State University Extension recommends using stuff animals, dolls or small people figures. When you make up a puppet story, use different names of the created characters such as two children fighting over a toy. Children become interested in the story and can then relate to how each child feels and is learning to problem solve.

We can act out our story by using positive things that children do. One of the ways that children learn positive behaviors is to act out actual positive behaviors you see the child doing and incorporate this into the story; it is a great reinforcement tool. Different ways we can act out with puppets is reinforcing the use of please and thank you, when we catch the children sharing, or when children use their words instead of hitting.

Use a puppet show to reenact a situation that actually happens that day. Again, use different names. Discuss with the child about the situation and what their thoughts would be on how the situation could have been handled differently. Next, discuss how the outcome could have been changed into a positive one.

Puppet play is also a way to test out and show new ways of doing things. Have two puppets share a similar problem by beginning to trade toys or, better yet, play together. Take the ideas of the children and have the puppets say and do what they suggest.

Making homemade puppets can be very easy and unique. Use recyclables around the house such as socks, cartons, cans or cardboard on a stick. Allow both you and your child’s imagination to go to work. We can paste a picture on for the face or create a unique one.  To make the hair, use fur fabric, yarn, feathers or fringe. For great teeth you can use felt, Styrofoam, buttons, sponges or dried beans.  To make eyes, egg carton, dried uncooked pasta shells, buttons, felt circles or plastic spoons are fun options.

For the nose, use Styrofoam peanuts, egg cartons, stones or an old knit glove; don’t forget to give your puppet ears.

Puppet play should be a parent and child activity. Let your child’s imagination run wild and only give suggestion when they seem stuck or ask for help. This activity with puppets is a great way to introduce positive social skills in a fun and interactive way.

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