Posts Tagged “puppets”

Puppets in Pasola Park with Lady Hawke Storytelling

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NJ Parks: Fasola Park

by Deborah McMaster

NJ Parks: Fasola ParkLady Hawke Storytelling jumped off the page to me from the Gloucester County Freeholders’ 2015 Park Events Guide. New to the area, this brochure was a welcome surprise in my mailbox. I grabbed my Sharpie to circle interesting ideas for my daughters and me to do with the four youngest grandchildren this summer. Several possibilities on every page – what a great family-oriented place to live!
Friday, July 24, 2015 I took off work for five of us to have some Family Fun at Fasola Park (Where’s that?…Answer: Deptford, and easy to find). A beautiful hot summer day, Laura Kaighn (Lady Hawke) was telling her stories under the pavilion. The children sat on the floor at her feet as she told us about the mischievous Raven Child. Next a story about holding up the sky – the favorite of all three of my grandchildren. Lady Hawk in Fasola Park, NJThen my favorite about a special grandmother gift to Laura when she was a child. Remarkable was that there were no children neither wandering around nor running. Of Cherokee and Celtic heritage, and with a degree in education, Lady Hawke has been capturing children’s attention for 20 years!
After the stories Laura allowed the children to see and touch various artifacts such as shells or rocks, puppets, and the “grandmother gift” itself that she brings to display. Alissa and Marissa especially liked the bunny fur. Some books were available for purchase so we got the one with Lady Hawke’s collection of short stories. Marissa began reading it as soon as we left the storytelling area.
As you can see upon visiting the website, Laura is passionate about “getting the word out” in many forms, especially enhancing education in children and young adults. Her affinity for Native American culture, nature and positive messages came through in her choice of stories for this event. We certainly hope to hear more of her!

NJ Parks: Fasola ParkI must add a few words about the Fasola Park – we love it!! There is a water-sprinkler area. Restrooms are inside a building. There are swings, including a larger plastic one with rubber padded ramp underneath for a handicapped or wheelchair-bound child! There are colorful things to climb on and in, made of a plastic or rubber material that doesn’t feel hot to touch even with the sun beating down! Better than monkey bars for smaller fry, some pieces are wide with foot-holes and more solid surface space to climb on. Most with the rubber padded surface underneath.  All in all, this is a top-notch family play spot in South Jersey.

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Broadway in Philadelphia: War Horse Open Nov 27th

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War Horse at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia

Review By Deborah McMaster

My friend and I fell in love with Joey within a few minutes of meeting him. Through a comical incident of one-upmanship, Joey came to live with Albert who took great care of him. Joey’s spirit was seen in the move of his head, his switchy tail and reactive ears. Over the next two years we frolic and grow with Joey and Albert in Great Britain just before World War I.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

We are one of the townspeople as Joey is unfairly taken off to battle and we are one of the infantry as Albert the desperate teenager follows the fighting to find his beloved horse.

Time, place and weather are creatively projected on a cloud shaped screen hanging above the stage. The wind blew and the birds flew. At one point it was raining on the screen and the horse on the stage actually looked wet. Lighting plays a major role in fading players onto and off the stage, and in bringing the action of war to every seat.

If this version of the story involved long discourses on war and dirges from beginning to end I was concerned that it would have been hard for me to stay awake. It didn’t, and in fact I was so mesmerized I wouldn’t have needed the intermission. There was constant action on the stage and the pace of the scenes had an excellent balance. I cannot find words to describe the music. It must suffice to say that it was pretty yet suitable, and definitely enhanced the overall production.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

There are two cautions that may be helpful to know in advance. First, during some war scenes there is some repeated implied profanity. The second is that there are some very loud sound effects throughout the show.

As keen parents and teachers are already aware, any event can be a springboard for education. This is particularly applicable with this production, and there is a 33 page educational guide available for download on the website. The most obvious opportunity for teaching is that the story takes us to Europe during the time of World War I. Cultural differences and International Relations can be explored, as well as things like a horse’s role in a war. Another opportunity is exploring the world of stage production such as set design, lighting and special effects.

One of the most impressive things about this production, though, and another avenue for learning, is the puppetry. There are birds, a cute goose, and of course, the horses. The horses are specially constructed, and each is operated by two people inside. Several of the actors actually mount and “ride” on these horses. Since the audience can see the operators inside, it is fascinating to watch a person moving one way but the outward appearance is that the horse is moving another.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and moving play.  Click here for details on showtimes, tickets and directions.

Disclosure:  I was issued complimentary tickets to review this production.  The ideas and opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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Puppets: Entertaining Story Tellers Capturing Young Hearts

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Ventriloquist and puppeteers have been captivating audiences for centuries. As parents we can take note of this effective story-telling technique and incorporate into our lessons, sharing time or story times.

photo courtosy of

Making and Using Puppets At Home:

I found that especially for those with more than one child and therefore a million creative ideas and reminiscent stories spilling out all at once, puppets can help your little ones take turns spinning their tales. It is a creative way to encourage sharing and communication and creativity. During a summer visit with family, I suggested puppet play.  A couple of cousins and neighboring friends were playing and like most kids, after awhile, found themselves talking over one another.  I pulled the loveseat away from the wall just a enough for 2 little persons to fit and handed them each a puppet.  The others children and I sat on the floor to watch. The two “behind the curtain” had our attention to tell their stories. Taking turns, they each got to shared their imaginative characters and play make-believe.  It was so much fun to watch the creativity flow.  Lucky that I had a couple puppets in the trunk of my car.

This is also an excellent way to blend story time with younger and older children by having the older child “act” out the story with the puppet while you read it aloud. If you are feeling creativity, have your children make their own puppets with brown paper bags or old socks. This is a perfect stormy day activity and if the lights go out just have your flashlights handy for additional effects.

Cuddleuppets are a clever twist to traditional puppets, whereby offering a built in blanket with your puppet friend.  We have the crocodile one and often play “Teasing Mr. Crocodile, Can’t Catch Me” while reading the story.  Here are a few of the Spalding puppet family:

Spalding Puppet Friends

Puppets entertaining large audiences:

I grew up watching puppets on shows like Fraggle Rock.  Kermit was our family favorite puppet of all. Elmo became our character of choice once I had my son, and still is with my daughter. Sesame Street, Lamb Chop, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and Disney’s Muppets are all puppetry masterpieces in finding compelling ways to relate to children, discuss sensitive issues as well as encourage kindness and community. Where would we be without these adorable loved characters?

War Horse Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Puppetry is more than entertainment, it is an art form. War Horse on Broadway is a perfect example of puppetry at its finest with life size horses on stage to tell a compelling and emotional story.

War Horse Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

War Horse on Broadway at the Kimmel Center

War Horse is now showing at The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia November 27th through December 2nd.  Take a behind-the-scene peek with the video clip below and be blown away with the realistic horse puppetry.

In fact, there is an entire Teacher Resource guide that you can download to include more on the making of the puppets but also the story, World War I and so much more.

And of course puppets for the adult crowd:

I still love Kermit and Lamb Chop but here are a couple of my “not for kids” favorites… just for kicks because hey, adults should have fun too!

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How To Encourage Children To Read

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August Moon 2012If reading is fundamental, then why the heck is it one of the most frustrating and difficult things for parents to engage their children in?  UGH!!  Seriously, parents everywhere are having the “put that down and pick up a book” battle.  Gizmos of all sorts have stolen the time that once was occupied by magazines and/or a great novel (and if really lucky, perhaps a newspaper).  My son, an avid reader – which sprung out of nowhere one day several years ago… has been sucked into the Netflix unending streaming of commercial free episodes of almost everything.  What ever happened to watching ONE episode a week and flipping thru magazines during commercials?

Here are twelve suggestions to help the kiddos engage in reading.  Try a few and let us know how they go, or perhaps leave us a suggestion or two of your own.

1.  Play game directly related to a story book. (Ex: Green Eggs and Ham has several games and puzzles, Fancy Nancy Game, etc)  Follow up by reading the book another night and remembering the game play fun.  Tie the two experiences together.


2. Start the weekend with a book.  If your child is slow to wake in the morning, take advantage with Saturday morning early story time, then breakfast, dressing, etc.  Makes for excellent cuddle time as you ease into your day together.

Start the day with a story

Start the day with a story

3. Keep books everywhere… children recipe books in the kitchen, easy-readers in the bathroom & bedside with picture books at coffee tables.

4. Find small pockets of time for reading… this includes picture books and reading the captions.  Five or ten minutes between activities adds up over a day… over a week.

5. Read to your children in the tub.  If your kids are anything like mine, staying in the tub til lips are blue, take advantage and read while they play, soak and bathe.

6. Encourage reading through song.  (Ex: The Cat’s Pajamas album Reading Rocks has two specifically good songs for this – “I’m A Bookworm” and “Read To Me”)

7. Make time for your own reading – yes this works as you set an example.  You can claim a “reading hour” or play soft music to further encourage the environment.

8. Keep books accessible for little ones – sturdy books in a play area, while treasured family favorites reside on a book shelf until shared together.

9. Register each child for their OWN library card.  Teach them the rules of the library but also care for books.

10. Dress up as characters.  Go all out with costumes or keep it simple with hats and accessories.

Cinderella: Getting into character

Cinderella: Getting into character

11. Act out favorite parts.  Use different voices and props as you read aloud.  For those really serious – combine 10 & 11 and make your own movie with dressing up and acting out the story.

12. Puppets are an effective way to tell a story.  (Here I’m using CuddleUppets Green Crocodile to tell the story of Five Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree)

Using puppets and props for storytime

Using puppets and props for storytime

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