How Can Puppets Help With Social Skills?

How Can Puppets Help With Social Skills?

Puppets are powerful tools used in Play Therapy clinics across the country. Puppets can use verbal and nonverbal communication and allow expression to be explored through art or dramatic exploration. Below is a list of three ways to use puppet play at home to work on a child’s awareness of feelings, behavioural rehearsal, and normalizing emotions (Bernier, 2005). 

  1. Awareness of Feelings: Puppets can be role models for children as they can label and express the child’s and the puppet’s feelings. The puppet can also respond with empathy. The puppet may enable the child to use more feeling words; the child may also confide in the puppet (Drewes & Schaefer, 2018). If you are playing with your child and a puppet, find ways to integrate feelings and show empathy through the puppet.
  2. Behavioural Rehearsal: Puppets can role-model how to cope using coping strategies. This can be particularly helpful for working through situations such as school, doctor visits, or other situations that bring stress. Self-talk and deep breathing can be practiced step by step with the child and the puppet (Drewes & Schaefer, 2018). When playing with a puppet doing behavioural rehearsal, practice the coping strategies together with the child and puppet in real life. 
  3. Normalizer: Playing with a puppet allows children to express their feelings freely and enact situations that might have happened in their lives to process them. An example of this is a child who plays out a disagreement that has happened among friends with their puppets. Once they play this scenario out, they may try out different responses that could have happened. Afterwards, they may be able to explore with a parent what they are feeling (Elder, 2020). When reenacting situations, validating the feelings that come up for the child is critical in normalizing at home. 

There are many ways that children process their emotions; puppets are one way that this expression may be done. With these tips, you can continue to be present for your child.

References

Bernier, M. (2005). Puppetry in education and therapy: Unlocking doors to the mind and heart. Introduction to Puppetry in Therapy

Drewes, A. A., & Schaefer, C. E. (2018). Puppet play therapy: A practical guidebook. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. 

Elder, B. (2020, January 16). Puppet play: How to help your child self-regulate their emotions and behaviors. Integrated Learning Strategies. Retrieved February 22, 2023, from https://ilslearningcorner.com/2020-01-puppet-play-how-to-help-your-child-self-regulate-their-emotions-and-behaviors/ 

​​Shapiro, D. E. (1995). Puppet modeling technique for children undergoing stressful medical procedures: Tips for clinicians. International Journal of Play Therapy, 4(2), 31–39. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0089146