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The power of puppets: New toolkit helps kids process "heavy feelings"

Puppets Nico and Mena created for the Feel Your Best Self Program have a feeling color wheel above their heads.
Feel Your Best Self
Nico and Mena are "kid puppets" developed by experts at UConn's Neag School of Education and Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry to "help strengthen the emotional well-being of elementary-aged children."

Emily Wicks with UConn's Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry noticed the pandemic-era disruptions to kids' social-emotional learning and development, and reached out to Sandy Chafouleas at the university's Neag School of Education.

Together they developed Feel Your Best Self, a puppet-centered program aimed at helping "strengthen the emotional well-being of elementary-aged children."

This hour, we hear from Wicks and Chafouleas about their hopes for the toolkit's application where we live.

Through a series of videos, kid puppets CJ, Nico and Mena help children acknowledge that they have complex emotions, modeling how to express and process them.

The Feel Your Best Self team is working with the Connecticut's Statewide Family Engagement Center to help bridge the divide between the home and classroom.

Veronica Marion with the Center says the program is a "win-win" at a pivotal moment. "We see the numbers currently in regards to social-emotional learning, it’s off the charts. Students are really in the need of something."

With puppets in the room, Marion says, "children will talk more, they will open up more, just the fact that there’s a distraction, just the fact that there’s something else that they’re focusing on."

Plus, we hear from Ximena Marin, a teacher at Natchaug Elementary School in Windham who piloted the program in her bilingual classroom.


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Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show 'Where We Live.' She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH.
Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.