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Puppetry for the Very Young

I have been working with puppetry for all ages for over
45 years.  For the last 30 years I have been researching
puppetry for the very young.  This has centered around the
one to four year olds in toddler, and preschool settings,
birth to two years with their mothers in parent-infant and
tot groups, ‘puppet tales for tots’ (a series of joyful
sessions with moms and tots), as well as adult training
of B-3 teachers, home-preschool program teachers, and
caregivers taught in a wide array of different settings.
I am often sitting on, or near, the floor with a close circle
of little ones, silk over our laps and legs
creating our story space!
The young ones absorb everything around them into
their inner world through their senses and imitation. 
How important it is when we enliven the puppets for them
with movements that ring true.  The butterfly will move in
the element of air and lightness, and the bunny will have
a rhythmical hop, the chicken will peck, peck, peck, and the
human child puppet will walk upright.  We aim for the honesty
of the movement, then capture its uniqueness and mood
in a soft, slower timing that the youngest senses can take in.
Puppetry can capture the purest gesture which the child’s
power of imitation will be so grateful for.  Oh, then, what fun
for a child to fly outside themselves like a butterfly, hop
like a bunny, scurry like a mouse, and walk like a boy. 
The observation in nature, the deep absorbing of the
puppet pictures in story, the taking hold of it in the will, and
the re-enactment in the child’s play are signs of a healthy child.
Here is a little bunny story poem for young children. 
Try telling this with a large green soft cloth over your
lap to represent the meadow. Animate your bunnies
according to the movement indications in the poem.

In a meadow under a tree,
Three baby bunnies peek out at me.
Out of their hole they hop, hop, hop,
Run through the grasses and never stop.
When its time to rest, rest, rest,
Mama bunny makes a cozy nest.
Presentation Ideas:
Keep mama bunny hidden until the ending, then have her peek out of their silk bunny hole, and be busy fluffing the cloth to make their nest.  Time the baby bunnies return home to the telling of the last line.  Remember, when the puppets are engaged and enlivened there is no need to rush at all.
When I share a little story poem like this, I would tell it for a number of times so the children become very familiar with the story pictures and quality of my voice, movement and gestures of the characters.  They also take in deeply the mood of wonder you create in your inner self.
I might then have available a basket of simple bunnies, finger puppets, or small sewn or needle felted bunnies for the children to play with.  This is only after the story is well established for them.  Do not underestimate how your own inner and outer gesture affects the children.  You are the ‘holder’ of moral puppet life!
The gestures and movements of any puppet for young children are to be full of rhythm and wonder.  The puppets move slowly, but with interest, so the child’s senses can take in the depths of the gesture. The puppets have a living quality because the puppeteer ensouls them with inner wisdom and love. Puppetry is a powerful medium to help the youngest ones sit in peace, find stillness, and allow the nurturing images to bathe their souls.  In their inner space of quiet, the language of storytelling has an opportunity to support their all important speech development.


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You will also enjoy our Art of the Puppet Basket course - learn magical presentations using a basket with your puppets - many video examples for you to use with young children!  CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS