Last updated: 16/10/2022

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That puppets are fun for children, and even adults, everyone already knows. But today we want to go beyond, bring you the benefits of this ancient practice in the development of children. If you are interested in this subject, we welcome you to the Well-Being Guide. Besides learning about this magical world of imagination, we will present options for you to start using them as soon as possible. Follow us and make the best choice, either to use with your children or professionally.




Summary

  • There is no absolute certainty about the origins of puppets, but there is evidence to indicate that they were already used by the Egyptians 2,000 BC. (before Christ).
  • There are plays performed entirely with puppets, but it is also a tool used in schools and at home to entertain and teach children.
  • There are hand puppets, finger puppets and even puppets. See the differences in this Buying Guide.

The best Puppets: Our Picks

Buying Guide

It is a mistake to think that only adults manipulate puppets. Nowadays many of them are made so that the little ones can also create their own stories. To choose the right puppets for your children, or for professional use, continue with us to learn all about the artistic universe of these ancient puppets.

Menina sentada em um banco de um parque manipulado um fantoche de rainha

Children love to manipulate puppets and this helps their development. (Source: Pezibear/Pixabay.com)

What are puppets and where did they come from?

Puppets are dolls manipulated by humans with different techniques. The best known for this term is using the arm and hand. Most of the time the puppet has a hollow body and fits into the hand of the person manipulating it. However, what we know as a marionette is also a type of puppet. These are manipulated by nylon threads that can be attached to the fingers or to an x-shaped piece of wood, which allows the freedom to move the different parts of a puppet.

Marionetes sendo manipuladas.

Puppets are also a type of puppet. (Source: Free-Photos/ Pixabay.com)

No matter what type of puppet, they have one purpose, to entertain people, usually through plays. The viewer has the impression that they have a life of their own and that is the magic of puppets. Nowadays, these plays happen less frequently and the puppets have also come to life in schools and homes, helping in the education and development of children.

They have been part of the culture of various countries for millennia.

There is no absolute certainty about the origin of puppets, but there is evidence that they were already used in Egypt 2,000 BC. Other evidence shows that they were also used in ancient China, Greece and India. The fact is that they have been part of the culture of many countries for millennia.

How do puppets help child development?

Puppets have an incredible potential to awaken children’s interest in stories. It is often the best way that both parents and teachers find to insert storytelling into a child’s life. They come to life and get out of the paper. Besides working on their imagination, children can build their own identity, since in this game they can take the place of specific characters and let their emotions shine through. This is where the little ones also work on their gestures and communication.

When they manipulate the puppets themselves, they can use this mechanism, even if unconsciously, to show their emotions, whether good or bad. It is at this moment, through play, that children are more open and feel at ease to express themselves. Parents and teachers should be attentive. As if all this were not enough, puppets are also capable of promoting group play. Each child can take the place of a character and let their imagination run wild, integrating the little ones and working on social interaction.

Advantages
  • Awaken interest in storytelling and books
  • Work the imagination and identity construction
  • Allow children to talk about emotions in a playful way
  • Assist in the construction of gestures and communication
  • Stimulate interaction with other people
  • Entertain and educate at the same time
Disadvantages
  • Kits with more pieces can be expensive
  • Some models may be difficult to handle
  • Certain puppets are not suitable for children under 3 years old

Which professionals usually use puppets?

Due to the high potential of puppets, there are no limits in the professional world. They are best known, of course, in the world of theatre, being manipulated by artists to entertain the audience during a play. However, they have also won over teachers and invaded schools, as we have already mentioned, and have gained a lot of space to help in child development.

Within this universe they are also widely used for storytelling. But if you think that’s all there is to it, you are very wrong. Dentists, doctors and nurses have used these dolls for their care in doctor’s offices and hospitals. Children learn to brush their teeth and lose their fear of certain health procedures when accompanied by a puppet. They are also widely used in evangelization classes to better understand the biblical teachings from an early age.

Did you know that there are children’s books with a puppet built in? Usually the puppet, which represents the main character, is positioned in the centre of the book and is present on each page of the story. It is an excellent way to enchant children in reading

How to use puppets at home?

Surely you already have enough information to sit down with your children and start using the puppet. But we don’t want to stop there. There are some tips on certain subjects where puppets can be a parent’s best friend. First, we must remember that we are talking about children, and there is nothing more fun for them than learning through play. Instead of trying to teach something in the most common way, explaining how it works, as we do with adults, include puppets in education and you will see the difference.

Imagem de um fantoche pássaro olhando para a câmera com o fundo branco.

Puppets help parents to talk to their children about different subjects. (Source: aitoff/ Pixabay.com)
  • Feeding: Your child doesn’t want to eat? Try including the puppet during make-believe games and talk about the importance of healthy eating. Bringing a friend to the table at mealtime can also help the process;
  • Sustainability: How about teaching your child about the importance of recycling, caring about environmental impact and loving the planet?
  • Household chores: The puppet can help him understand the importance of putting toys away, putting the rubbish in the right place and everything you think is important as a rule in your home;
  • Hygiene: Do you have a child that is lazy to brush their teeth? Use a puppet as a make-believe to teach them about this. Let the child (playfully) brush the puppet’s teeth and they will open up to it little by little;
  • Fear of the dark or monsters: During the night, assist your child through playfulness to understand that monsters live only in their imagination, and who has nothing to fear.

Puppets have an incredible power to assist in education through positive discipline. The same can be done with the use of a doll, teddy bear or superheroes. The difference is that the puppet comes to life with the manipulation of an adult. Of course, the themes don’t end there, let your imagination guide the delicate issues you may be facing with your children.

What is the difference between hand puppets, finger puppets and puppets?

We have already talked a little about puppets and hand puppets at the beginning of this guide. Remembering that they all fit together as puppets in reality. The big question is how we usually call each category. Thus, hand puppets would be those in which we fit the hand and part of the arm. With the fingers it is possible to manipulate the talking and the arms of the puppet. The finger puppets are simply smaller and are inserted in the fingers. To tell a story, for example, you can fit a character on each finger.

They are more limiting, they do not have articulations in the mouth and arms, but they also arouse the children’s interest and are usually cheaper. And the puppets are the most articulable, they have a whole body and can bend even the elbows and knees. It is more difficult to manipulate this type of puppet, which requires experience or a professional. They have strings, usually nylon, so that the person can make the movements. All can be used for the principles presented in this guide, to entertain or assist in the development of children.

Hand puppet Finger Puppep Puppet
Articulation Articulable mouth and arms, moved with the hands No articulation, moved with only one finger Fully articulable, being the most real to the human body
Ease of manipulation Easy / Medium Easy Medium / Hard

Purchase Criteria: Choose the best puppets by following all these factors

Whether you are a teacher, theatre artist or a parent looking for something to aid your child’s development, it is important to be aware of the following criteria before choosing your puppet:

Check out each topic in detail to make a safe and sound choice.

Purpose

What do you want to buy a puppet for? That is the first question you should ask yourself. If you are a teacher and would like to work on the development of your students, you will need certain puppets. This can vary according to their age and the theme to be worked on, as we will see later. For theatre professionals, the range is even wider. You will need to buy puppets according to the play you are working on. These artists usually acquire different types of puppets and build up a collection over time.

Imagem de fantoches com cabeça de madeira e roupa de pano.

Check the purpose of use before anything, theatre professionals usually invest in better puppets. (Source: mainblick/ Pixabay.com)

And finally, mummy daddies also have specific needs. It may be that you are looking for a puppet to work the fear of the dark or some monster, or perhaps assist in the taste for some theme. Take all this into consideration before making your choice. Thinking about the purpose will give you the first direction of what you are looking for.

Material

Now you can think about the material. Puppets are usually made of cloth or felt, it is also possible to find productions with some wooden parts. A good tip is to check if the materials are anti-allergenic. Also check if the details are stitched, embroidered or glued. This all changes the quality, durability, safety and ease of cleaning. They may have accessories made of several different materials, such as wool, plastic or others. In the case of very young children, it is advisable to invest in cloth puppets without any accessory that could detach from the piece.

Indicative age

The indicative age should be considered especially for two reasons: safety and the child’s interest.

It is fundamental to reflect on the child’s tastes.

As we mentioned in the material criterion, some details should be taken into account if you are going to offer a puppet to children under three years of age, since they can swallow pieces and accessories that could come loose. Check for safety and respect the indicative age in this respect. Regarding interest, it is fundamental to reflect on the child’s tastes and take into consideration their learning and developmental stage. Children under three may love to listen to the classics and interact with the characters in the books. Older children may enjoy a dose of adrenaline and suspense in the stories. So, what is the profile and age of the child you wish to interact with and give a puppet as a gift?

Theme

Animals of the forest, biblical stories, kings and queens, characters of books or films… the themes that can be worked through the use of puppets are countless. The theme is linked to the criteria of purpose and indicative age. If you are a teacher, for example, and you are working with kindergarten children on animals, it is worth investing in a kit with the most varied of them. Mum and dad can invest in human puppets to work on emotions, such as sadness, happiness, anger, fear, among others, for example. Buying puppets according to a theme makes it easier to use them. But of course, this does not limit their use in any way. After all, with a good dose of creativity you can mix several themes and create an incredible story.

Imagem de fantoches dos Muppets lado a lado em uma bancada.

The theme of the puppets should be chosen carefully to arouse the interest of the children. (Source: kamian/ Pixabay.com)

Kit or individual

The loose puppets are cheaper, with about GBP$ 3 you find some options. So, this criterion also depends on your budget. If this issue is not a problem for you, it is always better to invest in kits that offer several characters. That way you ensure that they follow the same standard of material and style. To tell a classic story, for example, you can find specific kits with the characters, so you don’t have to look for each one individually. But nothing stops you from buying your puppets little by little and having a beautiful collection of puppets.

(Featured image source: belchonock / 123rf.com)

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