This is an ongoing project with Pinkie St Peter’s Primary School, Musselburgh which aims to improve relationships, speech, language and communication in the Early Years and through to Primary School age through the use of puppetry in an effort to reduce the development of mental health problems.

After a period of research at Pinkie Primary a project has been undertaken to encourage children to communicate confidently about their emotions, feelings and needs focussing on how to effectively dialogue about stress and stressors, which can become barriers to learning and emotional development.

Throughout Scotland, some children are entering early years education without the ability to communicate in an effective way. Sadly, but not unsurprisingly, this is particularly common in areas of high social deprivation. Education assessment indicates that many have now had rich conversational experience during early years. This risks failure to develop understanding of subjective emotions and the ability to express them, which can lead to educational underachievement and the development of mental health problems.

Conversations between young children and adult authority figures, including teachers, can be inherently stressful. So, by employing the use of an intermediary – namely a puppet! – we hope to encourage the development of open communication skills which, over time, can become transferrable skills for communicating with peers and adults. We hope that by providing a character for children to talk to we can provide support where it may be needed.

Puppet Animation Scotland have provided school teachers in Pinkie Primary School with puppetry training from professional puppeteers so they may employ simple, effective puppetry techniques effectively and confidently in a classroom context. As part of this project we would also run puppetry making workshops so that each school child and teacher would, side by side, create their own personal puppet and learn how to bring it to life. Our professional puppeteers would then continue to mentor the teachers as they created opportunities through the school week for pupils’ and teachers’ puppets to talk and interact together regularly.

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