I was attracted to Educational Insights’ Puppet-on-a-Stick at the Toy Fair last year, because of it’s unique design, allowing kids to hold the character and operate the mouth while pulling down the lever on his stick body.
Obvious uses are for pretend play, using the stick puppet in the traditional sense of puppet play–behind a sheet or curtain, popping up to announce or participate in the show. My little clients used the puppets to direct play but I found a surprise benefit to my speech therapy sessions. Kai, Lex, and Fez, the three puppets, helped kids that were working on specific sounds or language goals to more clearly focus on what they were working on. A 3 year-old who is working hard to use “I” instead of “me” watched Kai as he opened his mouth as I modeled “I” each time. The child associated the correct response with the puppet and his correct responses increased. In fact, he was holding a second puppet, Fez, and told me that Fez was going to say “me” and mine would say “I”. (clever kid, although at that point I put away Fez so he would be reinforced for correctly using “I”) The same was true for preschoolers working on articulation. Since maintaining attention is often an issue when working with kids, a fascinating puppet can help. Some kids we work with have difficulty with eye contact but will look at a puppet for cues. Somehow opening and closing Kai’s mouth while saying the target sound was more fun than watching me! We even finished up our session with Kai eating shapes from a game as we practiced our pronouns and verbs. Who doesn’t like a clever puppet?