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The Warming of Puppetry for the Very Young

I have been working with puppetry for all ages for over 40 years.
For the last 25 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. 

We want to take care with the gestures and movements of any puppet for young children and fill them with rhythm and wonder.  The rhythm of our human walk, the rocking of a cradle, or the sweeping of a broom, the picking of apples from the tree. All around us are activities of rhythm that we can make visible in our puppet shows. The puppets move slowly, but with interest in the wonder of life, 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.

The little finger puppets that dance so merrily on our fingertips, are perfect for the younger children, and are filled with a delightful imagination, which brings a soul warmth right into our hands and fingers!  What a gift to a child if they too have a puppet on their wee finger, soul warming their hands and fingers too! The movement of our fingers is connected to the speech center of the brain – a wonderful help for our little ones who are so engaged with speech acquisition.  Imagine a field trip to pick ripe rosy apples in an orchard, followed up with a basket full of apple finger puppets to support the experience. The exploration of the apple puppets can engage children for ages as they sit putting puppets on each finger, singing an apple song you have first told or sung with the same puppets.


One little apple hanging on a tree,

It fell down and bumped my knee!

Another little apple as rosy as a rose,

It fell down and bumped my nose!

Another little apple, ripe and sweet,

It fell down and bumped my feet!

Another little apple big and round,

It fell down and bounced on the ground!

It rolled and rolled nearly to my house,

Where it was spotted by a tiny little mouse.

This yummy apple will make a fine meal

And he munch, munch, munched it, even the peel.


To be honorable in our puppet work with these purest of young children, we, as puppeteers, teachers, and parents, must first and foremost, hold the inner picture of the young child in our hearts.  Our offering to them can be a beautiful bridge and welcome to ‘first’ experiences they will be meeting.  We provide a moment to connect and re-connect to the world around them in a sensory protected space. 


 Coming June 30, our online training on starting a Puppet Tales for Tots, Parent/tot/child Business of your own!  Such a meaningful offering in any community, and for you, a flexible, delightful, joyful way to earn a surprisingly good income from part time to full time!  Click Here for details

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