Playing with puppets is one of the more educational activities you can have with your children, exposing them to concepts and ideas around human emotion in a safe, secure space. This lets them roleplay through situations and scenarios that might happen to them before they do.
There are many developmental benefits that puppet play offers, from social and language skills to emotional intelligence and empathy. Playing with puppets is arguably one of the best ways to introduce these topics to children early, better equipping them for school and then adulthood later in life.
Puppets come in all shapes and sizes, from princesses and knights to dragons and dinosaur puppets. Some, like dinosaur finger puppets, being perfect for bedtime stories, and other, larger sizes, link dinosaur hand puppets, being great for use with traditional puppet theatres.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the early year’s developmental benefits that puppets can offer – giving a run-down of the six main benefits, which we hope makes a strong case for adding puppets to your kid’s growing toy collection.
6 developmental benefits of puppet play for young children
As a parent, you may be surprised to learn that the humble puppet has a lot to offer when it comes to child development. Language skills, social awareness, creativity, fine motor skills, and more – the benefits of puppet play for young children are many.
Without further ado, here are our picks of the six top developmental benefits of playing with puppets.
1. They build self-confidence and social skills
Perhaps the most apparent benefit of puppets is their ability to help children build self-confidence and social skills. While it can be tricky at first, once kids start developing and building their skill level, they’ll gain bucket loads of self-assurance, fostering a strong sense of accomplishment as they play.
For younger children, who aren’t yet comfortable talking and opening up with other children, teachers, or parents, puppets can act as a great middle-man, giving them a means and medium to explore ideas and role play. Kid’s often find it more comfortable to express these ideas as puppets can often feel more trustworthy to young children than their peers, making it easier for them to express their genuine thoughts and feelings. This helps them to build confidence and develop better social skills over time.
If your little one is particularly shy, investing in a proper puppet theatre can be a great way to encourage them out of their shell. This is because being partially hidden behind a stage will help children who are more unsure of themselves to act more confidently.
2. They help emotional development, understanding, and self-expression
Being able to understand others effectively, showing empathy, and expressing your own emotions and feelings, are essential skills and concepts – even for preschool-aged children. It can, however, be quite difficult to build and develop these skills, as it’s only through telling relevant stories and acting out scenarios that kids can learn these.
Puppets offer children a means to express emotions and practice scenarios without upsetting or creating conflict with anyone else, making them a safe place to experience and experiment with their feelings, as well as those of others, without risk of consequence. They can also help equip your child better when they encounter similar emotions out in the wild, letting them roleplay and rehearse strategies to deal with and overcome them safely during play.
Whatever you do, make sure to use your puppet play to go through the whole range of emotions with your little one, as this will make it easier to recognize these emotions and empathize when they are seen in other children.
3. They help language, listening, and other communication skills and development
Puppets can be great teaching aids, encouraging children to listen and learn as they’re used to tell a story. They’re most helpful when it comes to building and developing language, listening, and communication skills.
Whether teaching children songs or rhythms, explaining complex concepts through stories, or simply engaging in back-and-forth conversation with children who are reluctant to come out of their shells – puppets offer plenty of benefits for young children in the classroom.
They’re especially useful for children in the English as an Additional Language (EAL) cohort, who often struggle with English language skills, helping to make up for the lack of English spoken at home, bringing them up to speed with the rest of their peers.
4. They help stimulate creativity and imagination
Playing with puppets allows children to immerse themselves in a totally new and different world, accessing a wide array of different characters, personalities, and challenges to overcome as they live out and tell the stories of the puppets they control as they play.
And it’s not just the puppets themselves – other elements of a puppet show are just as creative, providing plenty of opportunity for imagination and crafts. Think background scenery, stage props, costume items, or even decorating the outside of your puppet theatre with colors, dinosaur stickers, and other finishing touches.
If you’re going to make or customize your own puppets, be sure to include your little one’s in the process – giving them a chance to show off their creativity and craft skills while helping to improve their motor skills at the same time.
5. They can help teach conflict resolution and behaviour modelling through role play
Roleplay is a vital part of developing understanding in a child’s early years, giving them a chance to explore new concepts and personalities and develop creative, imaginative ways to deal with issues or problems they might face.
You can try out and roleplay a diverse range of disagreements with puppets, walking your little ones through problems with sharing, arguments, and other scenarios they’re likely to encounter in the schoolyard or breakroom. By doing so, your children will be far better equipped to resolve these issues, making them far more effective at communicating and socializing with their peers.
Puppets can be comforting and provide a layer of separation for your child from the issues discussed, which can help if your little one is shy or low on confidence. This separation lets them play out scenarios, emotions, and conflicts without having to first hand, providing a safe space for them to fully explore these ideas and develop a toolset to deal with them.
6. They help development of motor skills through play
When children play with puppets, they’re manipulating them with their hands and fingers, giving this activity plenty in the way of fine motor skills development.
As well as developing better dexterity, using puppets to tell stories also offers hand-eye coordination benefits, which, combined with fine motor skills, will help them master their environment and all the things in it in no time at all.
This activity stands out as it’s one of the best ways to build these skills that aren’t competitive, giving children the freedom to play and explore various themes freely, without any pressure to win or fear of failure to hinder them.
Well, there you have it, our round-up of six of the biggest and best benefits of puppet-play for child development. Puppets have fallen out of favor in recent years, being replaced by electronic devices and screens, both at home and at nursery or preschool – something which, as we all know, comes with its own list of pros and cons.
But don’t let that discourage you. Kids of all ages still love puppets, and investing in a puppet theatre with a wide selection of animals, characters, and other puppets will be a worthwhile investment indeed, fast becoming some of the most popular items in their dinosaur toy box.
There’s also no reason to stop there – with opportunities for crafts being plentiful with puppets – from making your own to creating scenery, backdrops, and other props, offering loads of family fun and playtime bonding with you and your little ones.
We hope you found this article useful, and if you haven’t already, are now giving serious thought to stocking up on a few puppets of your very own.