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Puppet Play: How to Help Your Child Self-Regulate their Emotions and Behaviors

This article provides information on how puppet play can help emotional self-regulation and behavior. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.

If you have ever seen a psychologist or therapist, you may know one of the most common recommendations is journal writing to help release emotion, stress, anxiety and to help work through traumatic experiences.

Writing our innermost thoughts and feelings down on paper can promote change in our emotions and in the brain toward emotional and mental clarity.

Children are no different. They also have fears, big emotions, anxiety and stress, but often find it difficult to express themselves. That is why it may manifest itself in their behavior.

Puppet Play

If a child struggles with behavior, there could be an overlying issue causing these types of outbursts or emotional grounding delays. They may have trouble with speech and language, vocabulary to tell parents what they are feeling, don’t know how to express themselves, have learning challenges, or maybe they are worried about other kids in their classroom or a teacher.

So how can we help kids learn to self-regulate their emotions, express what they are feeling and work toward solutions for behavioral outbursts?

One very simple method is to use puppet play.

Benefits of Puppet Play

Kids are struggling with many of these issues younger and younger and many are either too young or can’t express themselves in writing. So what’s our alternative?

Puppet play gives children the opportunity to express what they are feeling, what is happening with their peers, their fears about school, where they are struggling in school and much more.

They can stimulate imagination, encourage creative play and discovery, and can do wonders for speech and language, social-emotional, cognitive and physical development. If a child struggles with their expressive and receptive language, puppets can help support these areas of growth.

Puppet Play

Some of the benefits include the following:

Social skills can improve through puppet play

Puppet play can increase a child’s communication and social skills by providing structured opportunities to interact with puppets. Children can also practice these skills by using puppets to interact with other children.

If a child has anxiety about social situations, puppets can give kids the opportunity to express themselves about their social fears with peers or crowds. They can even act out scenarios and topics of conversation with parents first to feel safe when using these same methods to interact with friends and teachers.

Emotional development

Puppet play can support children emotionally by giving them a “friend” to talk to, or a way to talk to other children without having to speak directly. Puppets provide children opportunities to interact and explore their knowledge and understanding of the world. For instance, when a child talks through a puppet, suddenly sharing isn’t so scary.

Puppet play allow children to explore their feelings freely where they can reenact situations in a way they are comfortable with at home or in the classroom. When children are asked to role-play a disagreement between friends, for example, they can express the feelings and responses that they would feel if they were in the situation. This provides kids with an open window to tell their parents, teachers and peers if they are feeling happy, sad, angry, fearful, anxious or stressed.

Expressing themselves in this way gives kids an emotional outlet as adults sometimes do on paper and helps them learn strategies to self-regulate those emotions or work them out through their puppet friends.

As many of you know, Mr. Rogers used puppet play regularly to talk about difficult topics and subjects that kids were worried about or were too scared to talk about with their parents and friends.

Puppet Play

Confidence in reading and speaking

Children who are reluctant to speak or read out loud may be more willing to talk or read to a puppet or through a puppet. It gives kids a chance to use new vocabulary words and speak in complete sentences.

Puppet play allows kids a safe place to explore new words and ideas through expressive language. When playing puppets with children, it’s helpful to ask open-ended questions to encourage more thoughts and ideas rather than a “yes” or “no” response.

Music appreciation 

Puppets can make music and creative movement more interesting and can teach children the words and movements to new songs.

It can also help a child’s auditory development for processing information (both receptive and expressive), comprehension and following directions.

Motor skills

Parents can use puppet play to encourage movement for building gross and fine motor control. For example, “watch puppet pig climb up the ladder and go down the slide. Can you climb the ladder after pig and go down the slide too?”


Puppet play can also be examples for kids and provide guidance when it comes to behavior and social skills. Characters can explain class rules, personal boundaries, what behaviors are ok and how to appropriately communicate with other kids.

Encouraging creativity through Puppet Play

Imaginative play is important for the learning process and helps a child develop their creativity and problem-solving skills. By using puppets, kids can create stories, scenarios and situations.

Capturing attention

If children struggle with attention and focus, puppets can re-engage the child and help bring their attention back in large-group and small-group settings. Many kids need characters with personalities to ignite learning and make learning come alive in a way that may be better suited for their learning style.

Conflict resolution

Puppet play can be especially helpful for exploring conflict resolution. Parents or teachers can use puppets to talk through behaviors, emotions, aggression, bullying, how to be kind, how to have empathy for others and how to be helpful.

Puppet Play

Activities for Puppet Play

If you are struggling to find activities to do with puppets, download this FREE printable below to provide you with some direction.

You can use storybooks, songs, nursery rhymes, joke books, theatre, real life situations and other methods to help kids in areas they may be struggling or need stronger development.

Remember, while some of us may feel a little “silly” or even “embarrassed” to act out puppets with our children, it could be an important step in building the child’s social, emotional and behavioral skills.

For activity recommendations, here is your free printable:

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Puppet Play

Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs

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