Problem-Solving Through Play
Play is how children work out what is going on in their lives. Puppets, especially ones they have learned to associate with the brain parts, give them the opportunity to dialog about the difficulty they are having. For example, the Guard Dog can talk to the Wise Owl about what he feels, and the Wise Owl can, in turn, advise how to solve the problem. The child gains a sense of mastery by solving the problem.
Using Puppets to Represent the Brain
A unique feature of the FocusedKids curriculum is the use of puppets to represent the parts of the brain. The purpose is to engage young kids in learning through play: visually, tactilely, and behaviorally. The puppets model the jobs of their respective brain parts. While this happens, the children can consult, advise, and remind them to work together and to use their tools. Of course, this is advising them! After the first lesson, I find that children can remember the names and the “brain job” of each puppet, and are excited to see them again when I return.
Teaching the parts of the brain helps the child understand that these parts can be influenced using specific behaviors. The expected outcome is that the child will feel empowered to be in charge of his brain. He will integrate the construct: “I have these parts that cause behaviors and when I get this way I can do something to manage my behaviors.” It is a powerful construct that helps build self-control.
Working with the Puppets
When I started using puppets with children in therapy, I would greet them at the door with a puppet. Because they would immediately engage, I learned how to interact through the puppet by answering their questions and noticing what they were doing. Alternatively, a colleague of mine had a wolf puppet who she named “Sigi” for Sigmund Freud. Each night she would practice by talking with her husband (who thought she’d lost her mind!) It just gave her the opportunity to get used to operating the puppet. It can feel awkward at ﬁrst.
Opportunities to Practice with a Puppet
- Find a place that is comfortable for you to practice using a puppet to communicate with others. (I took one to a restaurant and talked to the waiter with it - great fun!)
- Even using a puppet with your children or students before teaching FocusedKids is helpful.
- Make puppets a part of your classroom or home, and allow the kids use them. Become a part of their play, and learn from them.
- Pick a puppet to represent how you are feeling, and have it verbalize that. Invite the kids to do this.
- Talk to your dog through the puppet. Talk about your day, how you feel if you are hungry. Ask questions of your pet about taking a walk, how she is feeling, or if she is hungry.
- Once you have developed a comfort level, use the brain lesson in the curriculum and the script included to practice being the parts of the brain.