I will admit it: I'm in love with puppets. There’s just something delightful about having a character or creature come alive in my hands—although sometimes I can get a little carried away. A number of customers at the Appleby location where I work have been served by a chicken at the end of my arm. Now that’s a retail experience those folks won’t soon forget.
The puppets made by California-based Folkmanis are special favourites of mine and now for my young son too. They are exquisitely crafted, with vivid fabrics that really give depths and character to each puppet. The Funny Frog, for instance, has a wonderfully textured “skin” that makes him especially lively.
Several of their puppets also feature nifty gimmicks that help bring them to life even more. The Great Horned Owl not only has a swivelling head that looks all the way to the left and right, but also luminous eyes that blink. The Frilled Lizard sports a splendid frill that spreads out when you squeeze a pump in his tail. And the adorable Elephant’s trunk will curl up and down when you pull the rings inside of its head.
But one of the most special things about Folkmanis puppets, believe it or not, is the tag. Each of their puppets has a large, folded tag that contains a story, poem, or interesting facts about the creature you are holding. I'm particularly fond of the tale of the lovesick cephalopod that came with the Red Octopus, and the Seneca folktale about Moose and the giants is really cool. Usually, the tag on a product is something you cut off and throw away the minute you get home. Not so with these guys. In fact, we have a drawer stuffed with tags we have collected over the years.
A Toy that Grows with your Child
I’ve been bringing home puppets for my little guy since he was very small, and they have been fabulous toys that have “grown” with him over the course of his development. When he was an infant and a young toddler, they were great cuddle toys. Many of Folkmanis’ animal puppets are well stuffed and made from soft, snuggly materials—perfect for nuzzling against for nap time or during the night.
Of course, being able to bring the puppets to life made them marvellous for interactive family play, too. I would often use them to have funny conversations or tell stories, and they are an engaging way to read books. Folkmanis even offers a list of recommended books that match up well with their puppets.
When my son was about three-and-a-half years old, he gained enough dexterity to work the puppets on his own, which opened up many more possibilities. Now the two of us can put on little shows, or just have a little chat between the puppets. They also frequently find themselves included in other play scenarios—various dragon puppets have been known to ravage Playmobil knights or the hapless denizens of Lego City.
I have even found that some of the more unique puppets can lead down more traditionally “educational” avenues. The night I brought home the Baby Platypus, my son and I ended up on the couch after dinner watching tons of videos about the platypus. We learned about its dietary habits, the odd way in which it nurses its young (which hatch from eggs a distinctive trait for a mammal), even how to pick up a male platypus by the tail to avoid getting stung by the venomous spines on its hind feet!
Imagination, education and social interaction
Puppets are a wonderful toy for just about any age, sparking creative storytelling or to open up new ways of talking with your kids. Come take a look at our large selection of puppets and see what inspires your imagination!