Storytelling and puppetry are almost magical for children. There is a tangible focus of attention when a puppet appears or when the page of a book is turned.
Children are in a unique phase of life where they can enter the realm of imagination with ease. Paint a picture, describe a scene, and suddenly they are right there with you. Puppets allow imaginative and logical thought to exist simultaneously and I believe this has enormous benefits on children’s creative development.
What is it about puppets that bring the magic of storytelling to life? When my bear puppet is moving and responding, (with each swish of fur as she nods in agreement) it is easy for children to believe she is alive. However at the same time, they know she is not. Often I am asked the question, ‘Is she real?’ I usually respond with,
‘She is a puppet, but sometimes she thinks she is real.’
Children can see she is ‘real’ in the sense that the puppet actually exists, however it is the power of their imaginations that allow them to believe she has a personality, emotions and a life force of her own. This is key to creativity. Children experience the power of their imaginations making something inanimate, come to life. I believe this can have a hugely positive flow-on effect throughout their life. If children are allowed to believe that their visions can manifest, they will feel empowered to create, whether it be putting a story down on paper, imagining a new scientific theory, or designing a new kitchen stool. As storytellers, we are fueling and empowering imaginations.
When I was little, I was forever being told that my huge creative plans were too difficult, not possible, too grand. However what my mum did not realise, was that her actions were painting the opposite picture. At every point she would be creating, designing and making, whether it be the dress she wanted for a function, the garden she designed, or the 40-meter bunting for the regatta. I constantly experienced the power of imagination and creativity becoming tangible.
Reverence is also crucial to the experience of storytelling with puppets. I treat my puppets with a similar care and respect that I would show to a real animal, stroking their foreheads softly and placing them gently on the ground. Why is this important? Reverence creates the atmosphere of respect. I am showing the children that creative time is valuable. I experience the puppets as if they were ‘real,’ and this gives the children permission to enter their imaginative world right by my side. In a world where practically and logic hold such a dominating presence, I believe there is great value in adults allowing children to fully experience their natural propensity for imaginative play. Furthermore, adults and children alike, are often swept away by the pure joy of the experience.