How Puppets Are Teaching Kids to "Feel Your Best Self" (2023)

How Puppets Are Teaching Kids to "Feel Your Best Self" (1)

Feel Your Best Self (FYBS) is a free bilingual toolkit for kids that teaches 12 simple coping strategies to promote emotion regulation through the use of puppets, videos, and supporting materials. In this Q&A with Colorín Colorado, the FYBS team shares how the idea came about, why they wanted to make the materials in Spanish, and how schools are using the toolkit to support students.

What is Feel Your Best Self?

Feel Your Best Self is a free bilingual toolkit for kids that teaches 12 simple, emotion-focused coping strategies through the use of puppets, videos, and related activities. These types of coping strategies are important life skills, and when used regularly, they can promote emotional well-being. Using FYBS, kids explore different strategies to find those that help them feel their best as they navigate different situations. And the videos and resource materials are also available in Spanish!

Can you describe the different components to Feel Your Best Self?

The toolkit includes short videos for each of the 12 strategies in which 3 puppet kids offer and show each other options to help them shift their thinking, settle their body, and more! Tip sheets with brief discussion questions are provided to support co-viewing the videos with caregivers. In addition, strategy cards are included that outline three to five steps, using simple words and visuals, to prompt what each strategy entails. For educators, a facilitator guide is available to help walk through using FYBS, including tips on incorporating puppets so that kids can make their own fun friend to help them practice the strategies.

For more information, educators can watch the two-part introductory webinar as well.

Intro: Feel Your Best Self

Meet Nico, Mena, and CJ, and learn about different types of feelings!

(Video) Teaching with Puppets for Beginners

How did it come about?

During COVID, like so many organizations, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at UConn was looking for ways to shift their workshops online. Simultaneously, Dr. Sandy Chafouleas and team at the Neag School of Education and UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health were disseminating simple strategies that anyone could easily adopt to help support emotional well-being as schools re-opened. The initial collaboration started two years ago, and we haven’t looked back since as interest in and use of Feel Your Best Self continues to grow around the world.

Why did your team feel that this initiative was needed now?

COVID thrust a huge spotlight on increasing mental health concerns. The stress over the past few years has amplified these concerns as kids and their caregivers find their coping skills to be not typically developed or stretched too thin. Our team was concerned about the capacity for schools to meet this need; educators were experiencing the same stressors as the rest of us, so it was unreasonable to expect school systems to be ready to address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs as schools re-opened.

This is where we dug deep into what we knew about simple strategies — the smallest intervention element, rooted in what we know works in psychology — that could be packaged in a fun way to support emotion-focused coping. There are many more details in between, but this is how Feel Your Best Self was born. Our goal was to give every person options to help them navigate their feelings in the moment using fun, simple strategies.

(Video) How to Be a Good Student - Puppets give Kids Advice

What kinds of research-based practice informed its development?

Twelve core strategies are featured in Feel Your Best Self. Our team worked to map the evidence in emotion regulation, selecting those strategies that could be taught quickly for anyone to use in shifting their feelings in the moment. We organized the 12 strategies into three categories that could resonate with kids:

  • Calm Yourself: These strategies focus on self-soothing skills that settle the body or refocus attention. Often these strategies incorporate physical movement, like Belly Breathing or Shaking out the Yuck.
  • Catch Your Feelings: These strategies support self-awareness of one's emotional state, again helping us re-focus attention or shift our thoughts, like Turn the Dial or Push the Clouds.
  • Connect with Others: These strategies are all about social relationships, which could be choosing, offering, or seeking connection. Bring a High 5! or Be a Kind Helper can help both others and ourselves to feel our best.

What led you to using puppets?

Given our goal to put lots of fun in learning these emotion-focused coping strategies, puppetry offered a perfect complement! Puppetry has long been used in therapeutic and educational settings, so it was a natural fit. We also have an evidence brief with more information about why and how you can use puppetry in the classroom.

Why did you decide to include videos and materials in Spanish?

As we built and continue to grow Feel Your Best Self, we have prioritized access. We have worked to ensure that materials are available in different formats — for diverse readers and non-readers. Within our home state of CT, Spanish is the second-most spoken language, and many of our school partners expressed that it would be helpful to have Spanish materials, so that became one of our priorities for increasing access.

Have you seen any outreach taking place in Spanish?

We have been tagged in social media posts that are disseminating information about Feel Your Best Self in Spanish. Our own work has primarily been within the CT bilingual programs that have been our partners, who have been supporting outreach to the families of their students. The recent piece by Edutopia shows what Feel Your Best Self can look like in Spanish-speaking classrooms.

What are some of the ways that schools are using Feel Your Best Self?

Schools are primarily using Feel Your Best Self universally — meaning at the whole class or school level. However, we have also gotten feedback from school-based mental health professionals (e.g., school counselors, psychologists, social workers) and community providers who are using FYBS in more targeted ways to support small group and individual needs around emotion regulation.

(Video) Puppets teaching kids how to deal with conflict-related emotions

How can schools incorporate Feel Your Best Self into their social-emotional learning?

Feel Your Best Self is flexible and versatile. This means that it can be integrated in many ways and at different times during the school day and can serve as a stand-alone option or can complete existing initiatives. For example, Feel Your Best Self can be used in morning meeting, a designated SEL block, during transitions, and even into related services/arts (e.g., mental health supports, health/physical education, music). If you are already using a program or curriculum, you can teach kids how the "language" of Feel Your Best Self aligns with whatever you are already doing.

What kinds of responses do you see from students, teachers, and families?

We have received an overwhelmingly positive response to FYBS — whether it be the "fun" videos and puppetry, or that the materials are free and easy to use. Students, educators, families, and community providers have all shared different success stories. But stay tuned, as we are currently collecting this information to summarize and share!

How are families using it?

From families that we have been in contact with, many are using the videos along with our Feelings Forecast to learn together and talk about emotion-focused coping strategies. Our Tip Sheets offer a great starting place to get those conversations going; watch a video together and use the tips to talk about it and try the strategy in your own family! Some families also have shared that they had their children create sock puppets.

Is there a success story you’d like to share?

One of our favorite success stories is about an elementary student attending a bilingual classroom. We worked with that classroom over the course of a month. During our first visit, this student was pretty disengaged — head down on their desk, hood up. The student started to come around during the second visit when we were making puppets with the class, but was still apprehensive. Each visit, we noticed the student was engaging more and more; by our last visit, this student was standing up at the front of the class demonstrating strategies with their puppet!

(Video) How Puppets Can Help Kids Express Emotions


You are welcome to print copies or republish materials for non-commercial use as long as credit is given to Colorín Colorado and the author(s). For commercial use, please contact [emailprotected].

(Video) Three Basic Puppetry Techniques Every Puppeteer Should Know - Swazzle Puppet Studio Episode 8


How Puppets Are Teaching Kids to "Feel Your Best Self"? ›

Feel Your Best Self is a free bilingual toolkit for kids that teaches 12 simple, emotion-focused coping strategies through the use of puppets, videos, and related activities. These types of coping strategies are important life skills, and when used regularly, they can promote emotional well-being.

How puppets can help kids express emotions? ›

Using puppets allows you to discuss emotions in a safe and fun way, which can help reduce anxiety and stress around emotional topics. Learning through play, as a child can do via puppet play, allows kids to experiment with different emotions and try out new ways of coping with them.

How does puppet play promote emotional development? ›

Emotional Development

Puppets can teach children about their emotions. Children can interact with the puppets as they share their ability to be happy, sad, angry, funny or jealous. Children can express these emotions too without upsetting anyone. Their puppet character is the one to feel these emotions.

What are the benefits of teaching with puppets? ›

Puppets help to stimulate children's imaginations as well as encourage creative play and discovery. Puppets open a door to a child's imagination allowing them to create, explore and flourish. Breathing life and fun into classroom learning, puppet play is a powerful teaching tool in early education settings.

Why are puppets important in a child's development? ›

Puppets offer children an opportunity for role-playing that allows them to explore new personalities, and ideas and develop their imagination. Puppets can increase children's communication and social skills by providing structured opportunities to interact.

How can art help children express their feelings? ›

Art can provide a very natural and safe way for children to express themselves. They can play, experiment, make a mess, create stories, use metaphors to represent feelings, explore alternative narratives, externalise their feelings by creating characters, reflect, and share their art with others.

How do toys help children emotionally? ›

Toys help to facilitate this, allowing children to release stress and use their creativity while developing their emotional skills and social skills. Playing with toys provides opportunities for children to learn and practice different cognitive abilities, such as problem solving, communication, and self-expression.

How do children express emotions through play? ›

It's children's way of creating imaginary worlds, characters and plots that match their emotional state, helping them learn to express and regulate their feelings. Through play, kids learn to cope with their emotions as they act out fear, frustration, anger and aggression in a situation they control.

How can puppets teach social skills? ›

Puppets can be used beyond the identification and naming of emotions to help children understand and resolve conflicts respectfully. A puppet can also play a role in restorative approaches to behavior issues and support young people to respectfully manage differences and disagreements.

How do puppets help with children's social and emotional development? ›

Puppet play is effective because it helps the parent/teacher enter into the child's imaginary world and allows children to experience the feelings of other characters (early empathy development) and learn important social behaviors and conversation skills.

What life lessons can we get from puppetry? ›

  • (1) We are ALL puppets in the big scheme of things. ...
  • (2) We are never in control of the significant events in life. ...
  • (3) We live in some serious MAYA—thinking our world is actual. ...
  • (4) We have some free will. ...
  • (5) Our thoughts and actions have consequences.
Oct 21, 2016

What important skills can children learn from puppet Theatre? ›

There are many reasons why puppet theatres can be beneficial for children's development and well-being. They provide a fun and engaging way for children to learn about relationships, fine motor skills, social skills, speech and language development, and different cultures and countries.

What are the three reasons to use puppets? ›

What are the benefits of using puppets in the classroom?
  • Puppets are a good tool to get young children's attention.
  • Puppets help students act out everyday scenarios.
  • Puppets, especially finger puppets, allow little ones to transform into anything they want.

What is the purpose of puppet? ›

Puppetry occurs in almost all human societies where puppets are used for the purpose of entertainment through performance, as sacred objects in rituals, as symbolic effigies in celebrations such as carnivals, and as a catalyst for social and psychological change in transformative arts.

How do puppets help children solve problems? ›

of Problem-Solving

Puppets can facilitate pretend play that helps children experience the feelings of other characters (early empathy development). Puppets act out stories with children and explore feelings and ways to cope with uncomfortable feelings.

How can art express your feelings? ›

Artists create art that conveys to us how they think and feel about things. Artists use different lines, shapes, and colors to express their feelings. Every artist chooses their own colors, lines and shapes that are meaningful for them.

How art reflect our feelings? ›

Art and Emotion. One central feature of aesthetic experiences is their ability to arouse emotions in perceivers. It feels natural to experience joy, pleasure shivers down the spine, awe in sight of grandiose artworks, or sometimes even negative emotions of fear, anger or disgust in front of visually challenging stimuli ...

What are the benefits of sensory play for emotional development? ›

Supporting brain development, enhancing memory, complex tasks and problem solving. Developing fine motor skills through tactile play (useful when children want to hold a pen or use scissors for example). Supporting language development, communication and social skills. Enhancing memory and observational skills.

How do toys impact emotional development? ›

Playing with toys helps improve their communication skills, self-confidence, and release of emotions. Additionally, when playing with other children, they are able to respond to other people's feelings, opinions, and conflicts. All these are important in their emotional development.

What does it mean to toy with feelings? ›

: to deal with or control (someone or something) in a clever and usually unfair or selfish way. Do you really love me, or are you just toying with me? Don't toy with my emotions.

How do puppets help communication? ›

Using puppets has encouraged our children to express their own thoughts, fears and feelings and they have also encouraged positive behaviour within the room.

What are the benefits of puppets in play therapy? ›

Puppets help bring the child's problem comfortably into the room. They often speak for the child, making her feel not so alone and not so BAD. Puppets are but one of many play therapy tools.

What is puppet show method of teaching? ›

Puppet shows allow students to creatively demonstrate their learning to an audience other than their teacher. Students contribute individual perspectives and ideas to the project, which enriches the assessment process and encourages students to learn from one another.

How does social emotional learning help children? ›

Studies show that social-emotional skills—such as problem-solving, self-regulation, impulse control, and empathy—help improve academics, reduce negative social behaviors like bullying, and create positive classroom climates. Social-emotional skills also help kids successfully manage everyday life.

How did the puppet give life? ›

It is also confirmed in the Completion ending that the Puppet, who was possessed by Henry's daughter, was giving life to the other murdered children from The Missing Children Incident and restoring their lives by making them animatronics as well.

What is the value of using puppets in classroom? ›

Puppets change the entire classroom by creating more possibilities for creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and curiosity. They give students a (sometimes silly) voice and put them in the role of creator.

Why do people love puppets? ›

People just like puppets, and their strange human-ness. “I think audiences love – not with radio, but with television and with film – they love to look at the idea of an inanimate object made animate.” Many performers love puppets because of their simplicity – America's first puppeteers were itinerant performers.

Why are puppets good for storytelling? ›

Telling stories with puppets can also help new storytellers to relax and have fun presenting their story. By looking at the puppet as it speaks, rather than looking at the audience, the storyteller will direct the audience's attention to the puppet.

How can puppets be used for behavior management? ›

Puppet play can be especially helpful for exploring conflict resolution. Parents or teachers can use puppets to talk through behaviors, emotions, aggression, bullying, how to be kind, how to have empathy for others and how to be helpful.

Why might children respond better to a puppet than to a human voice? ›

Talking to a puppet, as opposed to a person, makes the conversation feel less personal and more pretend. It is a play-based technique sometimes used in therapy to help the child feel less self-conscious, and open up.

What is a puppet show for kids? ›

Puppet shows allow children to experiment with storytelling and imagination. Explore the basic elements of storytelling while you craft Peg-themed puppets and a theater for your show.

How puppets can help with trauma? ›

For children that have experienced the negative effects of trauma, puppets can offer a way to rebuild and restore positive relationships with adults and peers, expression of emotions, exploration of real-life experiences, pushing limits as a way to understand where their boundaries began and ended, learning self- ...

How are puppets used for communication? ›

Telling stories is a great time to use puppets, whether you're singing a song, reading a book, or making up a story of your own. Puppets can really help when there is more than one character to bring to life. They help keep that story you've read a bazillion times fresh and interesting.

What skills can be developed through puppetry in a child? ›

9 Benefits of Puppet Play for Preschoolers and Toddlers
  • Language Development. Children love to have 'conversations' with a puppet. ...
  • Social Development. ...
  • Emotional Development. ...
  • Listening Skills. ...
  • Motor Skills. ...
  • Building Self Confidence. ...
  • Creativity. ...
  • Story Telling and Sequencing.
Jan 6, 2020

What do puppets teach children? ›

Using puppets in teaching supports children to develop socially and emotionally as they view puppets as a friend and feel more comfortable engaging in social interactions. Puppets also encourage children to improve their motor skills and creativity when they are designing and using their puppets.

What are three advantages of using puppets for the artist in society? ›

But, the puppet show is not only about entertainment, it also has several other benefits such as: Encouraging art and craft skills. Promoting language development. Developing confidence to speak and read aloud.


1. Learn About Emotions and Feelings with Ms Rachel | Kids Videos | Preschool Learning Videos | Toddler
(Ms Rachel - Toddler Learning Videos)
2. Using Puppets to Teach Social Skills
(Special School District of St. Louis County)
3. Puppets in the Classroom: Part 1
(San Marcos Public Library)
4. Puppet play: how it helps child development
(Raising Children Network)
5. Using puppets and flashcards to get children talking in English
(Oxford University Press ELT)
6. #pov : a mom and her son attend a puppet show but they find out the puppets are real


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