Puppets can be an engaging and valuable learning tool for aiding your child’s developmental process, especially during a time when social interaction is suddenly limited. As we all struggle to maintain our human connections with social distancing restrictions, it can be especially difficult for young children who are still growing in various stages of social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Puppets are an underrated tool that can continue to help children practice and build on these essential skills even during social distancing. Here are some benefits that puppets have for three essential development stages, and some inspiration for how you can use them during your next fun learning activity with your child.

Social Development

Playing with puppets offers a whole new way of communication and interaction for a child who may otherwise feel intimidated. While a child may feel scared to communicate with others just on their own, puppets provide a safe haven to hide behind as they are still developing these skills. Puppets provide a fun way for a child to pretend and take on a whole other persona. While playing with puppets they are building on valuable social development through the acquisition of language skills.

One way that you can promote this social development is by using puppets in reading time. Your child will be more confident to speak out loud when they can do it using her favorite bunny puppet. Another way to encourage this development is by incorporating puppets into your child’s playtime as a way to interact and talk with others. While playdates are on hold, your child can interact with her friends using puppets through video messenger chats. By providing structured scenarios for them to talk through the puppets, you help to create more opportunities for them to practice verbal communication.

Emotional Development

Using puppets in play is also a way to support valuable emotional development especially in times of high-stress. Guarding themselves behind a toy such as a puppet provides an added sense of security for children. This makes it easier for them to be comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings. It also helps children learn to develop empathy for others by playing scenarios where they take on the role of others.

If you’re struggling with more conflict between siblings during this quarantining period, puppets are a way to promote healthy emotional development by helping guide your children through resolving arguments by using the puppets. They may then feel more safe sharing why they were fighting in a calm way and working through any hurt feelings by using the puppets.

Otherwise, check out Siblings and Social Distancing: How to Reduce Conflict for more support in reducing sibling strife.

Cognitive Development

The use of puppets is also a way to promote valuable cognitive development skills. Through playing with puppets, children are encouraged to create storylines that build on their creativity and imagination. Required to retell the story and remember the plots, your child will develop and improve her memory as well. Meanwhile, as your child is building this storyline and plot with characters, she works through problem-solving skills as she determines the beginning, middle, and end of each story and how to work through the problems that the characters face until reaching the epic finale.

While you and your family are stuck at home, a great way to encourage cognitive development is through a puppet show. You could either have each child make up their own story and show to put on for the family or ask them to work together to build an even greater and more complex plot and show. You can make this activity engage your children for the entire day creating their characters, scripts, and even puppets. Then honor their big moment by setting up a stage and show for you as parents to attend.

If you don’t already have a puppet at home, another fun social distancing arts and crafts activity can also be constructing the puppets by hand!

Using puppets in play can be a fun and highly beneficial activity for your child’s development. Through the natural process of make-believe and role-play, children are gaining valuable social, emotional, and cognitive skills. They also are an enjoyable activity to share as a family during tough times like these. So the next time your children are feeling bored at home try using puppets for a fun and valuable learning opportunity.