Using Puppets in Child Care

Finger puppets

Puppets provide a wide range of benefits for children in a child care setting. Child care providers can use puppets, whether they are purchased at the store or homemade, to enhance almost any area of the child care curriculum. Children of all ages can enjoy using puppets in child care.

Benefits of Using Puppets in a Child Care Setting

Puppets are a great way to engage the attention and imagination of children of all ages. Using puppets in the child care curriculum is an enjoyable way to promote children’s learning of new skills and concepts.  Benefits of using puppets in child care include the following:

  • Social skills: Puppets can increase children’s communication and social skills by providing structured opportunities to interact with the puppets. Children can also practice these skills by using puppets to interact with other children.
  • Emotional development: Puppets can support children emotionally by giving them a “friend” to talk to, or a way to talk to other children without having to speak directly.
  • Confidence in reading and speaking: Children who are reluctant to speak or read out loud may be more willing to talk or read to a puppet.
  • Music appreciation: Puppets can make music and creative movement more interesting and can teach children the words and movements to new songs.
  • Motor skills: Manipulating puppets can be a positive way to encourage movement and to practice gross and fine motor control.
  • Guidance: Children can learn appropriate behaviors by watching the puppet’s example, or the puppet can introduce and explain class rules.
  • Encouraging creativity: Children can use puppets to come up with stories, scenarios, and creative ways to solve problems.
  • Capturing attention: A puppet can be a good tool to capture the attention of young children in large-group and small-group settings, especially if the adult gives the puppet an engaging “personality.”
  • Promoting dramatic play: Puppets can be easy-to-manipulate characters in a variety of dramatic play themes and stories.

Ways to Use Puppets in Child Care

Puppets can be used across many different parts of the early childhood curriculum. Here are a few common places where puppets can enhance young children’s play and learning:

  • Dramatic play: Children can use puppets to act out their own scenarios and stories.
  • Transitions: Puppets are a great tool for telling children what activity is coming next. For example, Wanda the Chef might come out of her kitchen to let the children know it’s time to clean up for snack/lunch.
  • Games: Puppets can lead games with children, such as “Simon Says” and “I-Spy.” Puppets can also participate in the game, either as a positive role model or as an example of misbehavior that the children can help correct.
  • Reading: Children can practice reading their favorite books to puppets, especially if they’re too shy to read in front of teachers or other children. Children who are not reading yet can make up stories to tell the puppet, or “read” to them by telling a familiar story using the illustrations in the storybook. Puppets can also read children their favorite books.
  • Creative Art: Puppets can paint with children or introduce a new craft to the children.
  • Puppet Shows: Children can use puppets to put on their own puppet shows for other students or their child care providers. Child care providers can also use puppet shows to introduce new concepts to children.
  • Music Time: Puppets can sing and dance during large group activities.

Types of Puppets

Puppets come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, races, and ethnicities. Some puppets have mouths, legs, etc. that move, while others may not. Puppets can be:

  • People
  • Animals
  • Insects
  • Store-bought
  • Homemade
  • Hand-held
  • Wrapped around fingers
  • Pulled over hands
  • Controlled by strings

In addition to the classroom puppets, give children the opportunity to make their own individual puppets out of socks or brown paper bags, sticks, spoons, balls, gloves, or mittens. Encourage the children to be as creative as possible. 

For More Information

The following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care video demonstrates ways to incorporate puppets into group time:

For more information about music, movement, and other large group activities, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles and databases: