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Presentations With a Purpose

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 illusions.

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 moving mouths.

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 and head.

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 know.
  • 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.

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.

Grades 4-6

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 puppeteer.

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 church.

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:

  1. Have two people hold a blanket between them to create a stage.
  2. Turn a table on its side.
  3. Cut a window in a refrigerator box. Paint the box to look like a TV set.
  4. In summer, string rope between two trees about 3 feet from the ground. Hang a dark sheet or blanket over the rope.
  5. 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 heavy.)

-D.V. and L.V.

Storing Puppets

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.


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