Puppetry For Babies
We love to see a mother lovingly holding a baby on her lap playing with a nursery rhyme puppet. They are delighting in the rhythm and sounds of the words and the puppet movements. Here comes Wee Willie Winkie over their laps, upstairs (up a child’s leg) and downstairs (down the leg), peeking through the window (hiding and peeking out), running along the folds of the lap, asking ‘are the children in their beds?’, creating joyful closeness and finding stillness. These playful living pictures of song, story, and puppets are a deep sharing for parent and child.
Then comes the repetition again and again, layer by layer, reassuring and confirming uprightness, walking into the world, and formative speech. The child’s whole being will be twinkling with wonder, love, and fun of it all. We hold this kind of experience inwardly in harmony with our understanding of their sweet, soft senses, and in the mirror of the child’s own accomplishments. The child is being held in the gesture of loving protection in the mother’s arms, and takes in the picture of who he is throughout his development.
We can continually strive and grow in our work by asking ourselves, ‘what can I bring to the puppet with my knowledge of the developmental stage of the child that will be a harmonious support to the child’s inmost needs?’
For babies I would suggest the introduction of puppets be much like this Wee Willie Winkie example. Let a puppet song or nursery rhyme be accompanied by the love and holding of a mother, a father, a grandparent, or a caretaker. Song and story can lift the young ones experience of language from everyday talk, to times of more conscious and beautifully formed language. To produce ‘lifted’ language, we take our ordinary, everyday use of speech, and wrap it with our inner warmth, wonder, and imaginative pictures. We can elevate our language – it becomes ‘story voice’. Children really listen to story voice! ’This ‘lifted language’, along with the enchanting use of puppets, woven through with the loving feeling you have for the child, is indeed a gift to them.
What kind of puppet would you use? I like to use puppets made of natural material to support the child’s healthy relationship to the world around them. I tend to like handmade felted wool puppets or strong felt finger puppets for these very young ones. The softer felt emanates an open porous quality and can breathe with the young soul. It also allows for subtle weavings of color that provide a living quality, and it is soft to touch. These are not, however, for the one year olds to have to put in their mouth as the fibers are too loose. For puppets the child can then hold and explore with their mouths you are better off using cotton velveteen or velour, or knotted silk figures. China silk (weight 5-8mm) has an inner glow. I have heard it called woven sunlight! We want to surround our youngest souls with the best quality natural material we can.
You can make a small silk knot puppet with a square of silk suitable for a baby. Tie a head in the middle of the square, then two smaller knots for hands from the silk on the periphery, and, if you like, two feet at the bottom. Try to create a reasonably proportionally correct ‘human’ shape. From behind the head knot from below where the ‘neck’ is, put your index finger into the head knot, your thumb and long finger into the hand knots. This will make a wonderful first puppet; it indicates the soft human form.
sweet image from apple blossom dolls blogspot
The little one will see it enlivened by mother or a father, and then will safely explore it with their own senses. We ensoul this first puppet by bringing gentle movement, uprightness, and a gesture of open, tender wonder.