Singing can help shy toddlers and preschoolers open up.

Puppets & Songs for Toddlers and Preschool Children

by Audrey Lucas

Toddlers and preschoolers benefit from pretend play, which can occur during music and interaction with puppets. Not only do young children grow and develop from songs and puppet shows, they also treasure the parent involvement of those activities. Though singing silly songs and putting on puppet shows feels like nothing more than play, these casual interactions promote cognitive, social and emotional development in toddlers and preschool children. While songs and puppets benefit both age groups, choose age-appropriate songs and puppet activities specific to the needs and abilities of your child.

1. Toddler Songs

Toddlers respond to upbeat songs with repetitive melodies and lyrics. As you introduce toddlers to music, sing songs all the way through rather than trying to teach them in segments. Toddlers quickly will recognize the song and eventually learn to sing along. Classic songs for toddlers include "Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," "Rock A Bye Baby" and "The Wheels on the Bus." These songs all involve hand gestures, which help toddlers develop their vocabulary. These movements also allow nonverbal toddlers to participate in sing-a-longs. Songs such as "Old MacDonald" and "The Alphabet Song" help introduce toddlers to animal sounds and letters.

2. Preschool Songs

Puppets shows for toddlers work best when brief and simple. By using puppets to sing songs, parents can guide toddlers through bedtime, teeth brushing, getting dressed and eating dinner. Try keeping a finger puppet at home to cheer up your toddler when she's cranky or she's feeling obstinate. Toddlers naturally test boundaries and resist authority so the use of puppets add a friendly approach in toddler discipline. When asked to put shoes on by a finger puppet named "Sally the Shoe Monkey," she will more likely giggle and comply than shout "no" and run away.

3. Puppets for Toddlers

Songs for preschool children aim to tell a story, help with a transition or teach a concept. Once a preschooler has mastered familiar tunes, the lyrics can adapt to teach about dinosaurs, shapes, feelings or insects. Preschoolers also enjoy interactive songs such as "Bingo" in which they can clap and sing along. Alter the beat and clap out the names of your preschooler and other family members. Preschool children have fun with movement and respond positively to upbeat songs they can dance to.

4. Puppets for Preschoolers

Children from 3 to 5 years of age have the skills to craft their own puppets and perform puppet shows. They might need some adult supervision and guidance with a puppet craft, which makes for a valuable bonding opportunity. Supplies for a homemade puppets include paper bags, cardboard tubes, socks, paper plates and craft sticks. To decorate the puppets, use glitter, paper, markers, googly eyes, paint, yarn and glue. Once your child has designed a puppet, grab your own puppet and strike up a conversation with him.

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