Puppets can be so much fun. Kids just love them. But puppeteering can be a bit more challenging than you might think. Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you prepare your puppet drama.
1. Know Your Character
One reason puppets are so appealing, is that they have character. They can be silly, crazy, even ridiculous and it is all allowed because they are puppets. It makes the puppet so entertaining. Spend some time thinking about the character of your puppet – the clearer your idea is about your character, the easier it is to portray him with character and the more interesting he will be to your audience.
2. Add Drama
As you practice with your puppet, experiment with the amount of drama your puppet uses. He can simply say things, or he can exaggerate. ‘Hi’ can be said in many different ways. What does your puppet feel like? Is he upset? Then let him be VERY upset. Is he happy? Then exaggerate that happiness in how he communicates. Silliness is appreciated in puppets – up to a point, of course.
3. Give Your Puppet a Voice
Experiment with the type of voice you want to use for your puppet. Often people like to use a high pitched voice to add drama, but be careful – make sure you choose a voice you can easily use for the entire duration of your puppet skit. Your voice must be easily understood by the listeners, and if it is too high pitched it might become too difficult to actually understand. Consider using a crazy accent rather than a difficult pitch. If you’re not sure if your voice works, make a quick audio recording on your phone or other device so you can hear what it sounds like. If you have a conversation with your puppet, make sure you can switch well from your own, normal voice, to the puppet’s voice.
4. Let Your Audience Hear You
Using a puppet stage can be useful, and can be easily set up with some tables and fabric. However, if you do not have a sound system, don’t use a puppet stage, because the audience will not be able to hear you. Just hold your puppet and talk to it. Don’t worry about them being able to see your mouth move. If you practice how to move your puppet, the kids will focus on the puppet while it speaks, and will focus on you while you speak. It can work beautifully.
5. Move the Puppet’s Mouth
Moving the mouth of the puppet properly is important. You’ve probably watched a puppet skit where the puppet stops moving its mouth as the puppeteer is busy reading his script and forgets to move the puppet’s mouth – it quickly turns the puppet skit into a lame presentation. It’s confusing too; who is talking? Practice moving the mouth in front of a mirror. Open the mouth wide when he says something loudly. If your puppet does not have a mouth that opens, then move the face as he talks.
6. How to Hold the Puppet
After speaking, make sure you hold the puppet in a way so that people can see the face. People often hold the puppet up too high so that the audience sees the neck and mouth, but not the eyes and face.
7. When to Move the Puppet
A lot of the puppetskit will likely involve conversation. Whenever there is a conversation going on, only move the puppet when he is talking. The only exception is that you move him to show that he changes what he is looking at, so he may look at the kids, and then look at you. Movement distracts the audience, so whenever the puppet moves while someone else is talking, he becomes a distraction.
8. Make Eye Contact
Let your puppet look at the audience, and make eye contact with your puppet as you talk to him yourself. Have an actual conversation with your puppet. Eye contact will make your conversation seem more real to your kids.
9. Show Don’t Tell
You may have heard this rule before. It applies to storytelling and drama and writing. And yes, also to puppeteering. Always try to think of ways in which you can communicate without using words. Doing things, acting things out, showing what you mean by using body language and facial expressions will make the kids watch you a little closer. It helps our visual learners, but it also forces the children to keep their eyes on you. It adds interest. It encourages engagement. And that’s what you want.
10. Let the Puppet Introduce Your Topic
Puppets are very useful when it comes to introducing the main topic of your lesson. Let the puppet have a problem that is similar to a situation your children may face, but then slightly more dramatic or silly. During your lesson the children will see how they can handle such a situation in their own lives. At the end of the lesson, you can use the puppet again, and have puppet ask the children how he can deal with his problem. It will give the children an opportunity to figure out how they help someone apply what they learned. It puts the children in a role of teaching the puppet, and that is a great way for them to learn.
What if you have no puppets? Make them yourself? Here’s how!
Coming soon: How to Write a Puppet Skit