Sunday, December 21, 2008

Review: Puppet

As part of the TOS Crew, I had the opportunity to review Puppetools, a unique website that seeks to encourage creative play in the academic setting by the use of homemade puppets.

Puppetools creator, Jeff Peyton believes that by encouraging the priciple of play, the doors of educational reform will be opened. And as most homeschooling mothers will tell you, the more fun a subject is, the better their children will be able to grasp it. :o)

Although I didn't personally agree with how crucial the use of puppetry is or can be, you can read the website's complete mission statement for yourself by clicking here.

Puppetools offers instructions for making your own paper puppets (which even non-crafty types will find pretty easy to do), extensive yet older looking training videos, research articles written by Mr. Peyton, photos of other user's puppets, and a Member's Discussion Forum.

Your puppets are encouraged be used in a variety of ways, from narrating lessons back to the class (a'la Charlotte Mason with a twist), to demonstrating more difficult concepts in math or science. Again, I didn't see where this would be completely worthwhile, but for a younger child it may make lessons more interesting.

A subscription to Puppetools costs $20 for an individual 60-Day trial (which provides 1 parent/teacher access to all the site has to offer), or $99 a year for a regular group membership (up to 30 users).

Subscription benefits include: (from their website)
 * 1 year to train and master Puppetools - the "Language of Play"

* Access Puppetools' online Educator Work Area

* Access Puppetools' exclusive practitioner video library

* Access extensive research on play and education

* Access hundreds of puppet images, concepts, and patterns

* Access readings from the 200 page Puppetools Manual

* Access our global community forums - learn with teachers around the world

* Put Puppetools to work in just days--for many it's just overnight

* Learn fast, flexible puppet design and construction--in just minutes

* Discover how a single paper hinge creates a limitless resource

* Engage playful, energized conversation for lessons and activities /all grades

* Use puppet know-how and techniques without acting, scripts, or theater

As my children have enjoyed making puppets on their own in the past, I didn't feel that the price of this service was worth it for my family, at all. I could get plenty of puppet inspiration with a trip to the library for free, or from a local craft store for next to nothing. Even a simple Google search would yield more cost-effective results. Not only that, but since my children are older (almost 9 and up) I couldn't see using puppets as a method of teaching at this stage.

I also felt the videos appeared outdated and choppy, and could definitely use some fine-tuning. Children (and adults) today are used to a much higher quality/resolution when it comes to that sort of thing, and so the video clips kind of turned me off.

However, all negative opinions about cost and video quality aside, I think Puppetools could be a good resource for church groups, co-ops, preschools, and K-2nd grade classrooms where inspiration and motivation may be needed and the use of puppets more embraced.

To explore Puppetools for yourself, please visit their website at

We give Puppetools a half-thumb up.

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