Promote Imaginative Play with Puppets

puppet-makingMost typical children naturally love to pretend play and intuitively use their imaginations at a relatively early age. We see this the strongest in normal development around 3-6 years of age. A child may pick up a toy car and “pretend” it is driving up and down the furniture.  He may joyfully make sounds to indicate the car’s speed and motor. As the child becomes more mature and develops relationships in the world, he might race the car and tell us a story about who is in the car, where they are going and other details. Children learn about their world through play and then are able to develop healthy imaginations.

Develop Skills with Creative Therapies
Children with various isms very often have challenges in developing healthy imaginations as well as engaging in purposeful or imaginative play. This, in addition to communication and socialization, is an area that can be helped with creative therapies. By engaging the child creatively and meeting them where they are, we can bring out their own interests and help them develop these skills in fun ways.

Make Puppets – Combining Art & Play
Puppet making is a great activity that combines art and play together! There are very simple ways to make puppets that can be executed by artists and novices alike. There are even special puppet kits that will allow your child to make a number of different puppets. Or  you can get more specific and make a specific type of puppet, such as  paper bag puppets, sock puppets, finger puppets, stick puppetsfoam puppets, or monster puppets, to name a few.

As you can see, there are many different styles and ways to create puppets.  It really doesn’t matter which one you choose. The goal is to work together and encourage the child to be creative and imaginative with both the act of making the puppet and then with playing afterwards. A visual reference is always good to have on hand.  Consider making a sample puppet ahead of time or having a picture of the end result as a reference.  However, do try to promote creative changes as the child makes their own puppet. Verbal feedback is a good way to support the child’s efforts. Saying, “Oh, I like the way you used blue hair on yours instead of brown, it’s so fun and bright!” As you are creating the puppet with the child there may be opportunities to start “pretending” by making voices or giving the puppet a name.

Imaginative Playtime Begins
After the art making, the play can begin. At first, some children may not join in but rather observe the play, or just not be paying attention at all. This is ok; you may have to play for them instead of with them in the beginning. Eventually, they may become curious and try some things with the puppet. Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense, follow their lead and go with it.

Although some children may not have the verbal skills to express themselves completely, they may be able to have the puppet make a sound, or do a dance or gesture.   Encourage and model storytelling or imaginative play.   While having fun and letting the child explore with the puppet, the therapist or parent can gently encourage communication and imagination by asking questions via their puppet.  Puppets are a great tool to use in conjunction with social stories and role playing.

Puppet making and creative play with the puppets is a fun activity that can open up the child’s creativity and help develop imagination and play skills.

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Pamela Ullmann, MS, ATR-BC, LCAT, CCLS About Pamela Ullmann, MS, ATR-BC, LCAT, CCLS

Colors of Play, LLC
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