One of the greatest contributions of puppetry for this age is bringing the rhythm of the year to children with visual seasonal stories, poems and songs from their daily experiences. Tell stories about building a snowman with a big brother, finding the first pussy willow down by the pond, and the birds weaving a nest in the big oak tree outside the kitchen. If you find a caterpillar together one spring day, then tell a story of how it becomes a butterfly. Go to the pumpkin patch, and gather five little pumpkins and sing that song together, giving delightful life to the five pumpkins.
Bringing seasonal pictures helps integrate a child within their immediate environment. For this age we want to bring beautiful puppet stories that are still within their experience, stories that are warm-hearted, full of community and love, and bring joyful connections to a regular, reliable world.
Putting real life into story pictures strengthens the young child’s growing and developing bodies and their relationship to the world. A favorite for this age is sharing daily and seasonal activities with a family member. You could put on a play about Sam who helps his grandfather pick apples. Sam can climb the ladder or climb to the first low branch and pick apples because he is growing and becoming capable. How joyful when one day Sam can help Grandfather carry the heavy apple baskets to the kitchen where they bake an apple pie!
Grandfather is there to make it feel safe. Of course this is not said in the story, but it is felt through the gestures and what is alive between the puppet characters, in the relationship. Add to this sweet scene and to the loving relationship a moment when Grandfather shows Sam the magic of the star that lives in the apple! A child will forever look at an apple with wonder.
I have needle felted a wool apple prop that is in two halves. The star is needle felted on the inside of the apple. It can make a sweet prop for a puppet show. We later cut and eat real apples and save the center stars. I might tell this puppet story after picking apples in the farm orchard, or under any apple tree in Autumn.
I love these puppet experiences to flow in harmony with a child’s actual daily life and growing experience in the immediate world around them. A puppet story about a little child watching and helping mama baking an apple cake can mirror and support real life. Here the puppet story can be a joyful bridge building interest in the actual practical event. We can bring the warmth of the puppet character’s gesture to each other as inspiration for our own relationships. The rhythm and breath and care imbuing a practical activity can be made visible and even more conscious in our puppet movements. We can mirror the healthiest of daily life in our puppet work. By adding the rhythm, repetition, and breathing quality of a song or story to the gesture of the puppet we enhance the potential for health of movement when we are doing our own daily tasks.
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(Pumpkin artwork by Jack Sorenson)