Puppets are excellent therapeutic and didactic tools that can also be used in speech therapy when working with children. There are several reasons for using a puppet during the communication and language development in children.
1. It’s easier to establish contact with a child
A child’s first contact with a speech therapist may be difficult since speech therapy usually takes place inside an infirmary in a less natural, unfamiliar environment. The child may feel less relaxed or even uncomfortable because of the presence of an unknown adult. It also may be difficult for the child to understand what is expected of him/her during the course of the therapy. For that reason, it is a good idea to introduce a puppet as a speech therapy assistant in order to reduce child’s anxiety. With the help of a friendly and likable puppet, in a relaxed atmosphere, you can explain to the child how the process of the treatment, therapy, or a particular exercise will look like. This way, it will be easier for the speech therapist to establish a trusting relationship with the child, which in turn has a positive effect on the success of the therapy.
2. It’s easier to clearly explain and demonstrate to the child how to arrange the speech organs (articulators) for appropriate speech production
A hand puppet with teeth, mouth, and tongue is ideally suited for the demonstration of articulation exercises, as well as to show to the child how he/she should arrange the speech organs to pronounce a given sound. At the next stage, we can swap the roles. The child can explain to the puppet how to pronounce or practice the pronunciation of a particular voice correctly. This way, by engaging the child in interesting exercises, he/she acquires the necessary knowledge to achieve better results in speech therapy.
3. Children are more likely to mimic the puppet than an adult
Younger children, in particular, find it easier to identify with a toy that is plush, cute, and colorful, than with an adult. The puppet increases the child’s interest, attention, and motivation. Therefore, the puppet helps not only with the articulation of individual sounds but also at the stage of their fixation into syllables, words, and sentences. Additionally, it effectively encourages the child to follow and repeat exercises.
4. The puppet encourages more spontaneous and relaxed speech and language communication in children
No other speech therapy tool encourages the child to act spontaneously and thus promote the vocabulary development and improvement of talking capabilities as effectively as puppets. When “speaking through the puppet” the child may feel more comfortable and at ease. Supporting such spontaneous activity is particularly important when working with children with delayed speech development or with speech disfluencies (e.g. stuttering).
5. Speech therapy turns into fun
The involvement of the child in speech therapy exercises is the key to effective progress. The hand puppet as a cheerful, colorful and cute “speech therapy assistant” helps us achieve this effect. First and foremost, therapy should be professional, but also dynamic and fun, since that is the only way to achieve the desired goals.
6. Using the puppet in the home environment
Parents can also use puppets or other similar toys to encourage speech and language communication through play in everyday situations. It should be used as a tool when the child is younger and speech production is still developing or when it’s observed that the child’s speech is delayed. We can animate the child with the puppet by telling fairy tales, flipping through books, or just talking. With the help of a puppet we encourage the child to increase the number of communication exchanges, to use a certain term more often, and to pronounce it even better. After the age of 3, children can already use the puppet in solo play while expressing themselves emotionally and developing imagination. If a child attends speech therapy, parents can use the puppet as a great motivational tool.
Using the puppet in speech therapy, everyday life or while playing with the child is one of the most effective tools for stimulation and development of manual skills, imagination, emotional expression. It also enables the child to relive certain events and helps with the general mental development and development of speech and language communication.
Written by Meta Dolinar, prof. special and rehabilitation pedagogics, speech therapist
Sowula, A. 5 reasons to use puppets in speech therapy. Retrieved on 27.11.2018 from http://www.moowi.eu/5-reasons-to-use-puppets-in-speech-therapy/