The key to working with children is variety. Any good teaching
method can become routine if overworked. Therefore you must always
look for creative ways to teach children.
Using a lot of different teaching methods adds an element of
surprise to your children's ministry. Children become more
interested. They guess what will happen next.
Repetition is important to help kids learn, so use a variety of
methods to teach the same concept. If you want children to learn
that Jesus loves them, for example, teach it over and over again by
using music, a story, an object lesson, a game, memorization and
role-play-all in one lesson!
So how can you creatively present information to children?
Chapters 5 to 8 give in-depth information on active learning,
games, crafts and music. This chapter explores five other
presentation methods: puppets, storytelling, clowning, drama and
Puppets With a Purpose
One of the most dynamic teaching tools is a hand puppet with a
moving mouth. Of course, you can use different kinds of puppets,
but Sesame Street has trained children to expect puppets with
You don't need a lot of expertise to use puppets. You can buy a
commercially made puppet and have the puppet lip-sync to a song
played on a nearby tape recorder. As you gain experience, you can
eventually write your own scripts and create different voices.
Whether you're a veteran puppeteer or a first-timer, it's
important to know the basics. Open the puppet's mouth once for each
syllable spoken. Be sure the eyes of the puppet look at the
audience. Make sure the audience can see the puppet's body, arms
In addition to knowing the basics of operating puppets, it's
important to gear puppetry to the audience's age. Some approaches
that work well with older children don't always work well with
young children, and vice versa. We've found the following methods
to be effective for the different ages:
With preschoolers, use soft, touchable puppets to assist you as
another voice in the classroom. It's amazing how much more
attentive preschoolers are when a teacher says something and a
friendly puppet agrees. Create a personality for the puppet that
differs from your own. If possible, give the puppet a cutesy voice
that children will enjoy listening to.
For preschoolers, action and repetition are more important than
clever, funny scripts. Adapt nursery rhymes or familiar tunes for
the puppet to use in teaching children some basic lessons.
For example, we've created various messages to the tune of "The
Farmer in the Dell." One message that works with the tune is: "I
like you. I like you. I want a lot of friends, so I like you!"
Another message: "Roses are red. Daisies are white. Let's take
turns and never fight!" Or sing: "Roses are red. Grass is green.
It's not nice to hit or be mean."
One Christmas we had 3- and 4-year-olds each make lambs by
stuffing a lunch sack with newspaper, closing the end with a rubber
band and covering the bag with cotton balls. We also used
medium-size sacks with one side cut out to make shepherds'
headpieces for each child to wear.
The children walked around the room carrying their lambs,
searching for green pasture. When they got to a predetermined spot,
an angel puppet appeared over the side of a "hill" and told them
all about the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem. The children sure
remembered that story!
Other ways to use puppets with preschoolers include:
- Use knock-knock jokes.
- Have puppets ask children yes-and-no questions.
- Have children clap or raise their hands if they hear the puppet
make a mistake when saying a Bible verse or singing a song they
- Invite preschoolers to sing along with the puppet or sing a
song for the puppet.
With this age group, use a puppet as a guest in your classroom.
Dress the puppet as a Bible character or visitor from another
country. Have the children ask the puppet questions.
Consider using a puppet to help with discipline. When discipline
problems occur, have the puppet tell the children what went wrong.
If done sensitively, the puppet's rapport with the children allows
it to address the issue more freely without hurting feelings.
A puppet can be a great storyteller or contribute to the story
the teacher tells. The puppet is something fun and colorful for the
children to watch, and a puppet can confirm lesson truths for
Children at this age also enjoy repeating their memory work for
a special puppet. Think about having a professor puppet or a wise
owl for children to tell what they learned.
With older children, use puppets to play games. For example,
play 20 Questions with a puppet where kids must ask 20 yes-or-no
questions to figure out the person, place or event the puppet has
chosen. The child who guesses the correct answer becomes the next
Have a puppet comment on how kids are doing at a craft or
project. Or have a puppet who is a "cool" musician, disc jockey,
guitar player or drummer lead the singing.
Children at this age can also make puppets and write their own
scripts. Have them present puppet shows to younger children in your
5 Inexpensive Puppet Stages
You don't need to buy an elaborate, expensive puppet stage to
present your puppet shows. Even if you have zero dollars in your
budget, you can still put on a puppet show. Try these ideas:
- Have two people hold a blanket between them to create a
- Turn a table on its side.
- Cut a window in a refrigerator box. Paint the box to look like
a TV set.
- In summer, string rope between two trees about 3 feet from the
ground. Hang a dark sheet or blanket over the rope.
- Have a carpenter build a wooden stage that has hinges so you
can fold it up. (Use pine or paneling so it won't be too
-D.V. and L.V.
Take advantage of discarded hat boxes, bags, a file cabinet or
another container to house your puppets so children can't see or
play with the puppets until you're ready to use them.
-L.V. and D.V.