Not just toys: Puppets teach children valuable lessons

Mar 14, 2019

The teachers of Decas Elementary School stepped aside to let Rapunzel, Pete the Cat, and other fictional characters teach students on Thursday night.

On March 14, early childhood educator Mary Wilson hosted a 45-minute puppet show to support students’ oral language skills, social-emotional development, phonemic awareness, and help children learn and understand the world around them through safe, imaginative play.

The performance, which consisted of multiple focused skits, taught kids the purpose of personal space, the importance of correct pronunciation, and the value of teamwork. But besides offering kids practical lessons, Wilson also amused the adults.

“When I do public performances, I use humor to not only entertain the children but also their parents who come to the show,” said Wilson. “I try to find a way to connect with everyone in the audience.”

For instance, when Wilson first introduced the puppet dog to her young audience, she said that the dog “seems to be very active.” She then asked the kids: “maybe you know what being very active means? Some of you know what that means,” followed by parents’ laugh.  

Kids actively participated in the show. Some of them even used puppets to recreate the famous cautionary tale of Three Little Pigs. But instead of killing the wolf at the end, kids offered him a delicious blueberry pie, eventually becoming friends and learning that kindness and generosity can triumph over evil.  

After working as a professional puppeteer for 22 years and hosting over 100 shows in numerous libraries, school, and theaters, Wilson believes that putting puppets into the hands of children — or rather on the hands of children — can set the stage for valuable learning opportunities in many developmental areas.

“Puppets give children a variety of learning experiences: auditory, visual, tactile,” said Wilson. “It is a great teaching tool. Puppets help children to connect with learning in a way that is magical, powerful, and fun, and learning should be all these things.”

Following the puppet show, the kids participated in activities prepared by the Little People’s College preschool. Kids played the game of musical chairs and planted flower seeds in personal little pots, which they took home afterward.

“The idea to plant flowers was based on the book The Tiny Seed,” said preschool teacher Kellie Archambault. “And we thought that spring season might be a good time to grow flowers.”

Kids enjoyed the show and with so many toys in action, did not have a common agreement upon their favorite character.

“I loved the dog because it was very fluffy, and it didn’t eat the pigs,” said Lia Bazaro, while seven-year-old Aliyah Stewart said she loved the “piggy” because she “got to use it and got to be friends with other piggies.”

Wilson believes it is crucial for parents and teachers to support children’s positive social and emotional development.

“When children have social and emotional help, they can learn to do anything,” said Wilson. “Without social and emotional support, children have a really hard time learning and taking care of themselves and other people around them.”