Using puppets to promote children’s emotional understanding

Print this page
Teacher using puppets with students

Staff at Cylch Meithrin Hermon use puppets to help children understand their emotions. The puppets allow the children to develop their personal and social skills by thinking about how their actions affect the feelings of the other children. Using puppets has helped create a warm and welcoming family ethos. Nearly all children are becoming aware of different feelings and emotions. Children’s behaviour is managed in a positive and constructive way.

Number of pupils: 19
Age range: 2-4
Date of inspection: October 2018

Information about setting

Cylch Meithrin Hermon is a Welsh-medium setting that meets in Canolfan Hermon in the village of Hermon near Crymych, in Pembrokeshire local authority.

The setting provides education and care for children aged between two and four years old from Monday to Thursday, from 9am until 12pm during term time.  It is registered to take up to 17 children in a session.  There are currently 13 children receiving funded early education at the setting.  Most of the children come from homes where English is the spoken language.  There are no children with identified additional learning needs attending the setting at this time.  The setting is run by three members of staff.

Context and background

Cylch Meithrin Hermon is a fun and vibrant Welsh-medium setting, which has a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.  To make the setting sustainable, registration was altered to include two-year-old children.  As the size and make-up of the group changed, it was found that the setting became noisier and children did not always listen to each other or to the practitioners well enough.  They needed to find a strategy to help manage children’s behaviour successfully and help them develop effective listening and strong social skills so that they could relate well to one another in the setting.  To begin with, practitioners decided to use puppets to engage children’s attention at circle time.  Then, the setting leader went on a training course to learn about different behaviour management approaches.  The course included training in how to use puppets to develop children’s personal and social skills and to support their wellbeing.  This helped in understanding the full potential of using puppets and practitioners were inspired to do more.  They introduced a turtle puppet at circle time, who hides in his shell if there is too much noise or boisterous behaviour in the group.  He tells the children how he is feeling and encourages them to tell him how they are feeling too.  This helps them begin to understand their emotions and how to relate to others in the group.  He proved a great success and is used throughout the session now, not just at circle time.

Description and nature of strategy and activity identified as sector leading practice

Practitioners have made the puppets a central part of the daily routine.  Children are encouraged to interact with them regularly, and they have become so familiar with the puppets that most are happy to talk to them about how they are feeling.  When Colin hides in his shell, the children know that something has upset him.  This encourages them to think about how other children are feeling and about the impact of their actions on others.  Then, they are encouraged to think about what they can do to improve the situation.  If children start becoming too noisy or upset one another, practitioners bring Colin out and show the children that he is hiding in his shell.  Often, children respond immediately because they want Colin to be happy.  Practitioners use Colin to help promote positive behaviour by asking him to say when a child deserves a sticker to celebrate how well they are doing and to suggest who should be the helper for the day. 

The puppets come on trips with the setting and are used to help less confident children cope with new situations.  They help to introduce new topics and ideas to the children, such as to begin to learn about different cultures and traditions.  Different children take Colin home with them each week.  This helps to develop strong links with parents and to know how they can support their children to develop specific social and communication skills.  Children choose an activity to do with Colin at home, or are guided towards an activity felt to be particularly useful for the child.  When they bring Colin back, children are encouraged to talk about what they did together.

What impact has this had on provision and learners’ standards

Using the puppets has helped create a warm and welcoming family ethos in the setting.  Children’s behaviour is managed in a positive and constructive way and strategies are used consistently.  As a result, nearly all children understand how they are expected to behave, and that they should treat each other with respect and consideration.  For example, they understand that they need to moderate their behaviour if Colin retreats into his shell because there is too much noise.  Nearly all children are becoming aware of different feelings and emotions and are beginning to understand how to express these appropriately. 

How have you shared your good practice?

The setting works closely with other Welsh-medium settings in the area, and they meet together to share ideas and practice.  Strategies have been shared with other settings that offer funded education across the county during a regular network meeting.  The local authority link teachers encourage other practitioners to visit the setting to view good practice.