Did you ever wish you had an extra pair of hands? Hands to entertain your children, hands to help them learn, hands to make cleanup exciting or to explain why eating carrots is good? How about if these extra hands were willing to work for free, never needed food, never answered back to you, and were willing to sleep in a shoe box? If it sounds too good to be true, you have not thought about the benefits of puppets for your children. There are myriad of gains from puppet play, especially in the areas of communication and social skills. Many children communicate easily with their own and other people’s puppets, giving them confidence to express their ideas and feelings. If they are shy, they can become acquainted with others through the roles they take on. Puppets are an ideal springboard for developing speaking and listening skills. With a puppet on their hand, children are free to try on new personalities, broadening their own in the process. Children are often fascinated by puppets and interact strongly with them, which can lead to an overcoming of shyness and fear and greater use of speech. Creative skills are augmented by playing with puppets. Puppet play helps young children develop creative skills by forcing them to use their imaginations. They make up the roles, the rules, the situations and the solutions. It is through imaginative play that children come to understand the differences between fantasy and reality. The real world becomes more real to children who have opportunities to pretend. Puppets are also easy to create and maintain. A puppet can spring to life just using things that are handy. Paper bags, paper cups and plates, plastic bottles, a sock, a pillow case with a ball tied into one end as a head, pop sticks with small pictures portraying whatever you like attached at one end, can all be put to practical use. Much fun can be had through the imaginative use of decorative materials such as stickers, cloth, and other sparkling bits and pieces. Shadow puppets can be created just by using your hands in front of a plain wall. They can also easily be made by cutting shapes out of hard plastic sheets and decorating them. Attach these cut out shapes to pop sticks. Keep everything bold and simple. A white sheet lit from behind forms a screen for shadow puppets. Not so artsy? Check out Manhattan Toy’s wonderful line of puppets, destined to be your child’s friend forever. You will get years of fun from them. The versatility of puppets makes them an object which appeals to all ages, allowing you to keep them handy for newborns through big kids. Experiment with your family using the following ideas: Hugs and Kisses Let your baby enjoy a furry hug! A great way to show affection to your child, puppets can have a little love routine when baby needs some extra attention. Song and Dance Puppets can help you put up a show! Scared your voice isn’t inspiring enough? Hide behind a puppet to sing and dance. Baby’s gleeful giggles will show you how entertaining you are. You can clap hands, wave, do a jig, jump, and high five without lifting your feet. Bath Use a puppet to make bath time a breeze. No more tears-it’s all fun and games when a friend joins and helps you wash, clean, and entertain at the same time. My children love a bath tickle from their puppet! Food Fun Let’s keep meals sane with a puppet. Use puppets to teach manners, tell a story, introduce and model eating new foods. Even a picky eater will want to try the “yummy” food lucky puppet is enjoying. Make sure to show your child how puppet enjoys his delicious food! Bedtime Get your child reading when puppet joins nightly story time. Give your child a chance to retell the story with a puppet. Can puppet help put your child to bed, and maybe stay in bed with your child instead of you? Maybe it’s your child’s next lovey! For older children, you can reinforce and introduce important skills: Literacy I can vividly recall my teacher introducing letters of the alphabet with a special puppet. It was exciting when our friend arrived to teach us a new letter. Math Use glove puppets to drive home a point about counting and numbers. You can sing a song such as “Five Little Monkeys.” Finger puppets are great for counting and introducing simple math skills such as addition and subtraction. For easy finger puppets, you can cut off the fingertips of old gloves and decorate. Science Talk about animals with bug or animal puppets. Use people puppets to learn about body parts and the five senses. Social Skills Use puppets to model vital social and emotional skills. Create a facilitator puppet for arguments. Introduce a special day such as a holiday with a puppet dressed for the occasion. Puppets really engage and delight children. They add a touch of fun and fantasy and help you go to places you have never been. They provide great transition opportunities. Explore and experiment using puppets with your child. It will be an adventure for both of you. What puppet idea will you try with your child today?