S4E6 Beyond Elmo: How Puppets Teach Preschoolers Self-Control

Four-year-olds are expected to be able to behave in the classroom, but more and more preschools are kicking children out for bad behavior. In this episode: new research into how to best help children control themselves in the classroom.

Puppets are regularly used on TV to talk to kids about their emotions. Now, in North Carolina, there’s new research into whether using puppets to teach social and emotional skills in the classroom is effective. To date, 240 preschool teachers have been trained in a classroom management program and puppet curriculum called Dinosaur School.

Duke researcher Katie Rosanbalm is evaluating the program. She says children interact with the puppets at “a level of enthusiasm that you don’t see when a teacher is just leading a class,” causing them to absorb the information at a deeper level.

The study shows kids in puppet classrooms show significant improvement in identifying their emotions (“I’m angry”) and ignoring emotional reactions to problems (such as aggression). The benefits of the program even carry over to teachers who report they themselves use more positive behavior management strategies in class.

Music: Theme music by David Schulman. “Rate Sheet,” “Lina My Queen,” “Tiny Putty,” “Rose Ornamental,” by Blue Dot Sessions. Music licensed under Creative Commons attribution.