Thursday, May 04, 2006

uni jr.- the therapeutic unicorn puppet

I had knee surgery when I was 7. We drove from our home in FL to Emory in Atlanta so i could have a great pedi ortho. surgeon- Anyway after my surgery, my parents gave me a stuffed unicorn which i so creatively named "Uni" (yes thats You-knee). Uni was a great childhood pal. I look many girls in middle childhood love all things pink, purple, unicorns, and stickers. Well today I stumbled into the Childrens Orchard- a consignment store where I often find killer deals--and i found this amazing, huge mahattan toy unicorn puppet in pristine condition. For 3.99-- i couldn't pass it up- despite the fact that i have boys and it is relatively girly (puprle ribbons and iridescent lame- really i am a gender neutral toy gal).

all childhood nostalgia aside, I was lured in by the actual mechanics of the puppet. I tried to explain to the lady who worked there that it was a fabulous puppet because you could actually fit your hand inside and move the entire mouth without hand fatigue...but i think my discourse was lost on her.

You probably didn't know this but I actually attended entire workshops on the therapeutic use of puppetry- it was part of my child life training at Johns Hopkins. the art of it all is so interesting-- choosing a good puppet, creating a persona, proper hand mechanics to create realistic speaking action, ways to engage children. And nothing is more fun than playing with a truely masterfully created puppet (those thousands of dollar ones--like those on sesame street) that literally are so well constructed that they exude life- so much so that, you as an adult, have to remind yourself they aren't real. Children really do connect with these fictional beings that come to life with a special voice, and persona in a way they don't connect with a person.

I rememeber my 1st graders used to beg for me to read our stories "in puppet". A little friend in Virginia also asks whenever we visit if we remembered to bring cow and giraffe- puppets we had played 3 years earlier- they are her favorite things. My son loves it when smart dad and i do family night puppet shows from behind the red couch.

The moment i put uni on and began interacting in the uni voice- my 5 year old was entranced. I was surprised he was so attached. Uni began asking all sorts of questions and my son has never been freer or more excited to answer- he talked about everything-- from living in heaven before we are born to what he likes best about his parents, the states he has visited, etc etc. After an hour of questioning, I had to give my "uni voice" a rest. He begged for more-- He explained to my husband when he got home from work that Uni was his favorite thing to do and "Uni asks so many questions I can't even remember where the questions started. I just like talking to uni too much!" I can only imagine the experience for him was like meeting someone you instantly hit it off with - the conversation just goes and you wonder how it all go started...I offered to let Uni do a story before bed--"No I just want more questions".

Even though I am sitting right there, saying Uni's words, it is somehow different. Uni brings him animation, gives him a special freedom, someone there for you and you alone. Someone to share yourself with. With Uni he feels proud of himself, more expressive, and unabashed (he even sang him a song- a true rarity for him!)

Today was a wonderful day-- for 3.99 I got a rockin' puppet, the academic pleasure of seeing how therapeutic puppet persona in action and best of all a special glimpse into the world of my son.


Nettie said...

Very interesting post. I love when you share about your child life stuff. I'm wondering if the puppet idea would work with my soon to be 13 yr old. :) I'm sure he'd think I'm nuts, but it would be great to be able to get more than "Nuthin" out of him when I ask him about school!

QueenMeadow said...

How fun! I think I need you to take me shopping and find me some fun new treasures.

Rachelle said...

What fun! I really enjoy your posts.

Lei said...

Puppets are so fun... I can hardly resist buying them! And they are so captivating around here, too! How fun that you found one like you'd enjoyed as a child!