Have you ever had the wonderful experience of introducing a puppet to your child? Children as young as babies are enthralled by the magic and creativity of puppet play. They light up when they see and hear an adorable puppet actually talking to them! While we understand that puppet play is good for creative thinking and language development, puppet play is also excellent for building connections in the brain. Through your puppet interactions with your child you help your child’s brain make connections that she will need in later schooling and life.
Let’s look at the many ways you build your child’s brain by playing with puppets.
Introduce your Puppet!
Introducing the puppet is the first important part of making brain connections. Studies have shown that when you introduce a new or “novel” object to your child you actually stimulate synaptic growth and help your child make new connections and understandings. Synaptic connections are needed to help your child’s both long and short-term memory. These connections help your child categorize new information for later use!
Make a Sound!
Have the puppet make a sound to introduce itself. Perhaps it can make a special sound… like a sound that can’t be spelled. This sound becomes an alert to your child that the puppet is there and ready to play. Invite your child to make the sound too. They can have a “sound conversation” back and forth with the sound. You may have noticed how your child respondsto a variety of sounds and recognizes people by their voices. Your child can recognize the puppet by it’s sound. Experiment with high and low voices pitches in your voice…this activates the auditory center of your child’s brain.
Natural Materials to Touch!
The sense of touch is one of the main ways that young children explore and learn about their world. That is why it is important to find toys, dolls and puppets made of natural materials. The “good feeling” of a soft toy invites your child to explore the toy more deeply. If a toy feels uncomfortable to touch your child probably won’t play with it for long!
We know from brain studies show that touching and being touched makes children more alert. Have you ever seen your child respond to the touch of a soft stuff animal or puppet? Usually they smile and want more! Experiences with objects that have a soft touch in a warm and cozy environment help your child make important synaptic and emotional connections and store them for future use in similar situations. So cuddle up with your child and a puppet and let the magic begin!
The Power of Kisses!
There is nothing like the power of kisses for creating a happy response from your child. Surprise your child by having the puppet give her a kiss! The intimacy of this social interaction actually releases serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps a child feel safe, secure and calm. You may be surprised to see your child kiss the puppet back!
Play Hide and Seek!
Your child is beginning to understand that things can still exist even when she can’t see them. This is called “object permanence” and it is one of the most important tools your child uses to understand the world around them. This understanding “that you will come back…even when she can’t see you”… is an essential understanding that will help her go off to school. Play peek-a-boo and hide and seek games with the puppet. These games will build this key skill. You will also be building the memory center of the brain,as your child is able to remember the game of peek-a-boo and apply these memories and understandings to new settings and materials. Soon your child will be playing peek-a-boo with everything!
Rhythm and Rhyme!
Simple rhymes with a predictable pattern help your child make a connection between actions and words and encourage her to anticipate actions and reactions. You can use familiar nursery and childhood rhymes with a puppet but make some up too. Have the puppet make an action such a Jump. Your rhyme might say: “Jump, jump. Up and down. Jump, jump. Touch the ground. Jump, jump. Turn around. Jump, jump. You’re a clown!The rhythm of a rhyme helps your child make a connection in the brain between word and action!
Add a New Dimension!
Introducing a new dimension to the puppet play causes new synaptic connections in the brain. Try adding bubbles to the puppet play. How does the puppet react to the bubbles? What does your child do? This element of surprise is a wonderful way to get your child’s attention and build synaptic connections in the brain. Plus new dimensions during play encourage the development of social interaction skills.
Choose good quality puppets that have “personality” and beauty and your child will have a new friend that she will cherish for a lifetime!