Young children are naturally drawn to music, so it can be a great way to engage them in learning activities. Add in some puppets, and you are sure to catch your little one's attention. Both toddlers and preschoolers can benefit from the use of songs and puppets, which can help them develop language skills as well as practice social interactions. Whether you use them during play or as part of your daily routine, puppets and songs are both effective tools when working with your child.
Songs for Toddlers
Toddlers who are just learning to speak can build language skills from singing songs, especially those with a lot of repetition, according to speech pathologist Kelly Faulkenberry Cheek. "Old McDonald Had a Farm" or "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" have parts that repeat several times during the song. Your toddler may start joining in with you as you sing "E-I-E-I-O" or even make some animal noises with you. Songs that encourage your toddler to move are another great way to get her involved in the activity. "Wheels on the Bus" or "If You're Happy and You Know It" include actions you can do as you sing, which will help her learn to follow simple directions and teach her concepts like up and down or open and shut.
Songs for Preschoolers
Once your child is a preschooler, she will be singing along with you more often. But that doesn't mean you have to stop using some of your favorites. Just find a way to make them new. For example, teach her about categorizing by changing "Old McDonald Had a Farm" to "Old McDonald Had a Zoo" and encourage her to think of other animals she can sing about. Sing songs that help her practice number concepts, like "This Old Man" or "Five Green and Speckled Frogs" which counts down the number of frogs until there are none left. Make up songs to help her do activities during her daily routine. Any familiar tune can become a brand new song, depending on the skill you want to practice, suggests Scholastic Teachers. Use the tune to "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" to sing "Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth" or "Clean, Clean, Clean Your Room."
Using Puppets with Toddlers
When you bring out a puppet, it becomes a character your toddler wants to interact with, according to Mary Mayesky, author of Creative Activities for Young Children. You can use this to your advantage to keep your little one's attention. A puppet can help her learn the names of body parts if you ask her to touch the puppet's eyes, find its nose or shake its hand. The puppet can sing a song to your toddler or introduce a story. Get her involved by giving her finger puppets she can use to interact with your puppet. She will get some fine motor practice as she manipulates one finger at a time, and she can use the finger puppets to act out familiar songs or stories. Your toddler will be practicing her language skills as she tries to make her puppet talk.
Using Puppets with Preschoolers
Puppets can be a model of the behaviors or social skills you want your preschooler to practice. Use the puppet to show how to share a toy or solve a conflict with a friend. If your child is nervous about starting at a new school, act it out with the puppet to prepare her for what it will be like. However, you don't have to be the one who is always controlling the puppet. Build on your preschooler's budding creativity and have her use the puppets to create her own storyline or tell a familiar one. Not only will she be using her newly developed language skills, but she will also be practicing sequencing a story, a beginning literacy skill.