Puppet play: why it’s good for children

Puppet play is a fun way for your child to explore strong feelings and learn good ways to manage them.

Strong emotions like frustration and jealousy can be hard for your child to understand and talk about. Exploring and expressing these strong emotions through the character of a puppet can help your child learn how to manage emotions better.

Puppet play can be a fun creative activity too, when you and your child make your own puppets.

What you need for puppet play

You can use any puppet or soft toy for a puppet play activity. You can even make your own.

Try these ideas for making your own puppets:

  • Make a puppet out of an old sock or stocking. For example, sew or glue on buttons for eyes and wool for hair. Or just use coloured markers to draw a face on an old white sock.
  • Decorate paper bags or envelopes that can fit over your hand or your child’s hand. Your child could draw the faces for the puppets, or you could cut out faces from magazines or print pictures for your child to paste.
  • Make different puppets for different emotions like happiness, anger, frustration and jealousy.

How to use puppet play to help your child learn about emotions

  • Follow your child’s lead. Your child will probably enjoy playing with toys and puppets, and be happy when you join his play.
  • Introduce emotions as part of your child’s play. For example, if your child is pretending the puppets are all dancing together, you could introduce jealousy by pretending that your puppet is jealous of how well another puppet can dance.
  • Talk with your child about what’s happening and encourage her to name the emotion, if she can. Then ask her what she thinks everyone should do next.
  • If your child makes a puppet do something inappropriate like hitting, point out the difference between the emotion and the behaviour. For example, ‘It’s OK for the puppet to be jealous, but it’s not OK to hit. What else could the puppet do?’
  • Talk about times that you’ve felt jealousy or another strong emotion, and ask your child whether he can remember feeling like that too. This helps your child understand that it’s normal to have strong feelings.

A simple message for the puppets and your child could be ‘All feelings are OK, but not all behaviours are OK’. Puppet play is a great chance for your child to practise some acceptable ways to express and manage strong emotions.

Adapting for children of different ages

Your younger child might find strong emotions upsetting, even in puppets. For example, she might get upset if one of the puppets is really angry and is shouting. Tune into your child and reassure her if you need to. Stop playing the game if it’s not fun for your child.

Your older child might enjoy making up a simple story about emotions for his puppets, and then filming it with your phone or a tablet.