CFFC to host second puppet-making event

By NIKKI SMITH,

The Coleman Center for Families and Children (CFFC) is typically bustling with activities designed to engage and teach children of all ages. A new program at the center will focus specifically on increasing social and emotional maturity in children.

By designing their own puppets with their own unique abilities and personalities, children will learn to express themselves in healthy ways through storytelling and crafting.

Those who wish to take part in these children’s puppet-making classes will join Jennifer Sheridan, LMSW, as she guides families through the art of puppet making and storytelling with several classes available this fall.

Sheridan, a social worker at the CFFC, kicked off the puppetry program on Monday with a specific focus on targeting social and emotional development in young children.

“Instead of serving as a parent educator, we created a new position (for Sheridan): family services coordinator,” said CFFC director Dede Smith. “The purpose is, we just have so many families in need, and she is a social worker and has the skill set that we really, really need.”

Sheridan works with area childcare centers and takes part in activities at the center to identify what her areas of focus will be.

Smith said Sheridan has knowledge and accessibility of resources needed by the center.

“Right now, we are seeing what the needs are, and the position will emerge as we identify those,” Smith said. “Starting the puppet program was her idea.”

The puppet-making class will be available for children ages 4 to 7. Children are to attend with a parent or caregiver present, and together the family will create its own puppet. Class size is limited to 10 children and their caregivers.

The class is includes a guided story writing time, as well as an arts and crafts portion. On Monday, children created a puppet to tell the story of an unlikely hero.

Through the writing portion, children filled in the blanks to reveal their hero puppet’s strengths, solve problems and experience triumph.

Sheridan said the puppets can be completely make-believe or based on someone in the child’s life. The class will receive a structured template and book to create the puppet and story. At the end of the class, children were able to present their puppets and tell their stories about their heroes.

“This is a way to educate families about using puppets as a way to express our feelings when we are young,” Sheridan said. “Sometimes we have trouble when were young expressing our feelings. But we can project those onto puppets.”

Sheridan said by projecting those feelings onto the puppets, children can voice their concerns or stories of empowerment that they may not have had the ability to voice before.

The next class will be held on Nov. 13 from 3 to 4 p.m.

Sheridan said class times may change at some point based on the community response. She added that creative ability is not required, as the experience will be guided.

Each class will have a similar format, but the classes will all have different themes. The next  class will focus on creating a puppet to tell the story of a beloved animal friend who gets scared and learns to overcome their fears. Through guided story writing, children will journey with their animal puppet to identify strengths, solve problems and experience triumph after a scary event.

The puppets are created from a blank paper puppet template. However, the puppet is not like the brown bag puppets that children have created in the past. According to Sheridan, these puppets allow for more movement.

“This style will allow for a more animated puppet,” Sheridan said. “We will color, we will use glitter and other crafts to really personalize the puppets.”

They will have magazine cutouts and other images to put a face on the puppet. Parents are also able to bring in photos to use for the puppets face if the child would like, but it is not required.

“This will allow for a more personalized puppet to the child and parent,” Sheridan said. “It’s open really for the child to express themselves.”

Sheridan said the theme for this class was chosen to show that anyone, big or small, could be an unlikely hero who is equipped with a secret strength that allows them to help others.

“This emphasizes that we can all be heroes in our own story and the stories of others,” Sheridan said.

“It fits into the center’s emphasis on social and emotional awareness,” Smith added.

According to Sheridan, many times children are unable to put into words their feelings when they are scared or afraid.

“Many people think it is that their child is too young to understand some things, but usually they do, but just do not have the language to voice those feelings,” Sheridan said. “This is designed to encourage that self awareness and empower our children with words so that they have that voice.”

A 1-to-1 caregiver to child ratio for the class is necessary, because there is a need for guidance during the puppet-making activity, but also to foster connections between child and parent or caregiver.

To register for classes, visit the center’s Facebook page and register with the link provided in the event page or call the center to register by phone.

For more information or questions about the puppet-making classes, contact Sheridan at the Coleman Center for Families and Children at 601-584-4704 or by emailing jennifer.sheridan@petalschools.com.