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My daughters enjoy playing make believe. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, well-developed play has numerous benefits for children with regard to their development of social skills, mathematical concepts, literacy, and self-regulation. As a certified teacher with a background in theatre directing, years ago I created a research project in graduate school investigating how reader’s theatre can benefit students’ comprehension of stories. Combining my personal interest in theatre with my children’s love of make believe, I reviewed the Puppet-on-a-Stick – The Sea Squad product from Educational Insights. While the company offers numerous educational items that I previously reviewed, the simplicity of the puppets made the items one of my favorites.
When educating children, props are a great way to encourage reading. Research from scholars at the University of Wisconsin shows that props can help enable better literacy skills when combined with having students retell a narrative story. In my family, I try to integrate an educational purpose with each toy I introduce to my kids. To best make the toys meaningful to my daughters, I incorporated a field trip to the aquarium. After seeing numerous sharks and fish, my older daughter Samantha was begging to purchase one of the overpriced aquarium store toys, but I knew I already had a better toy for the occasion at home.
Playing with The Sea Squad, Samantha was thrilled. Puppets helped bring make believe sea characters to life. My daughter created a story, while she reflected about the sea creatures she had seen that day. Getting to hold a toy shark and give it a voice helped Samantha make sense of the experience she had at the aquarium. My daughter was also better able to understand how sea creatures were different from mammals as she compared the puppets to some of her other stuffed animals. We talked about the features that each creature had: fins and tentacles.
Making a connection to the real world with the toys was a successful way to use the product. Each toy gained its own voice and characteristics. When we read stories about fish, Samantha held her fish puppet and made it talk when there was dialogue. For fun on a snowy day, we set up a puppet stage. To add to the experience, we played some of our favorite movies about sea creatures and we sang the fun songs during our family karaoke night, while making the puppets dance.
Sea puppets made an excellent gift for my daughters. I found the puppets easy to use, and I liked that the moving mouths engaged both of my daughters. Playing with the products was enjoyable and educational. When coupled with other educational experiences, the toys fostered a valuable learning experience and instilled a love of learning. In the future, I plan to buy more puppets on a stick for my daughters’ Christmas stockings as the Christmas-themed puppets look festive.
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