The Joy Connection: 5 Simple Steps to Using Puppets With Elderly Seniors


Do you have an elderly senior in your family or in your life who is struggling with “quality of life” challenges due to dementia?  If so, I have some good news for you!  Puppets have the power to totally change your communication dynamic and strengthen your relationship with your loved one or client. That’s right – puppets! 

Even if you have never picked up a puppet before, in no time, you can be a pro at using puppets to augment communication, build a better relationship and create many special moments of joy!  The following approach will also ease any awkwardness you feel about using a puppet (if making and playing with puppets is not your usual style).

No puppet?  No problem!

I’m so excited to share with you, an awesome strategy you can start using right away.  If you don’t have a puppet, no problem. In fact, it’s better that way!  Making a puppet together with your loved one, is a great way to ease any awkwardness associated with the idea of communicating with a puppet. Although any kind of hand puppet can be used, sock puppets are very effective for direct communication, are easy to make, and are pretty darn adorable!

Let’s get started!

You’ll need a minimum of about 45 uninterrupted minutes with your loved one. If you are feeling a bit uncomfortable with the idea of bringing out a puppet to chat, making a puppet together is the perfect way to get things started. I recommend making one puppet at a time, starting with the puppet you will be using. There are a lot of advantages to this.  It gives you the chance to pique the interest of your loved one, learn more about their ideas for puppet design, make note of the materials that are of greatest interest to them, and hone your own puppet making skills.

5 Simple Steps

Here are 5 simple steps to get ready for your first puppet making session:

  1. Download Puppeteria’s FREE instructions, “How to Make a Sock Puppet With Puppeteria” and read them over so you know what materials to gather prior to your visit.  Take the instructions along with you, for your puppet-making session, so you have them to refer to.  There are lots of great photographs to make things super easy.
  2. Look at pictures of puppets together, to get ideas about puppet designs and various ways to create the features of the puppet.  There are many on-line references through Pinterest, Google Images, Etsy, and various puppetry websites.  There are also lots of great books with photos of puppets.  If you or your loved one has some favourite puppet characters from TV shows you’ve watched in the past (Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Shari Lewis, etc.), use those as reference to spark more great conversation.
  3. Engage your loved one in the making of your puppet as much as possible, but even if they prefer to observe, make use of the opportunity to chat together while creating.  Conversation comes much more naturally when there is something to connect your focus.
  4. When the puppet is finished, you can talk about potential names, what the puppet’s voice sounds like, what kind of personality it has, what the puppet’s favourite things are, etc.  Keep the conversation light and playful, and you will both have a joyful time.
  5. Now that your puppet has an identity, use the puppet to chat a bit about itself, ending your time together with the puppet saying something like, “I’d really like to visit you again.  This was fun!”

Future Visits

Remember to bring your puppet with you every time you visit.  If your loved one appreciates a riddle, joke, poem or song, it is fun to allow your puppet to peek around the corner of your loved one’s door when you arrive, to deliver their joke, riddle, etc. and to break the ice for the visit.

It is important to remember that your puppet must always come from a place of “empathy” towards your loved one.  This will help your loved one develop a special connection to the puppet.  When the puppet understands them, it creates a feeling of safety and trust.

The More, the Merrier

When you feel the time is appropriate, work with your loved one to make a puppet of their own.  If they need a bit of persuasion, it is often effective for your puppet to make the suggestion.  The conversation can go something like this:

Your Puppet: (speaking to you or your loved one) “You know – I’d really like a new friend to play with and to talk to.  I wish there was another puppet here!” 

You:  (speaking to your puppet) “We can make another puppet!  I have some supplies in my bag.”

Your Puppet: (getting excited)  “You do!  That’s great!  Can Papa make the puppet?  He would make the best puppet ever!”

You:  “That’s a great idea.  We can help if he needs some help.  I think you’re right – he would make the best puppet ever.”

Pull out the materials and put the plan into action, getting your loved one to do as much as possible, so he feels like it is in fact his own creation. Once you have two puppets, the interactions become even more fun and interesting!

Why Puppets Are So Effective

Puppets bridge a gap, allowing us to interact more freely while bringing out the unique personalities of the puppets.  Puppets have the advantage of being able to say and do things that many of us wouldn’t consider. The sense of playfulness and fun that results in these interactions, open us up – in our hearts, and in our minds.

Respect for individuality, compassion, listening, empathy, creativity, support and possibility are the key elements in connecting with your loved one or client.  Puppets are perfect vehicles for keeping your relationship strong and creating many moments of joy!

Would you like to learn more?

If you’d like to go deeper in this fun and creative exploration of using puppets with your elderly loved one or client, I would love for you to join me for my FREE Webinar, called “What Difference Can a Puppet Make?”  You’ll learn some great activities for using puppets in the following ways:

      • Puppet to Person
      • Puppet to Puppet, and
      • Person to Puppet.

We’ll be also explore ways to use puppets to:

      • Augment Communication
      • Problem-Solve
      • Learn & Tell Family Stories

At the end of the Webinar, there is some important information about how to access a FREE mini-training program to involve the whole family.  The webinar is “live”, so you’ll have the opportunity to get your questions answered!

Creating together is a natural way to connect.  As your loved one’s memory changes from one visit to the next, you can always engage with them through creative practice. Creativity is not only how we make things, it is how we express ourselves, even when words fail.  Our ideas, imagination and ability to solve problems come from our ability to be creative. The benefits of creative activity include increased self-esteem and improved quality of life.  Through creativity, we can discover new things about one another as well as ourselves.  Best of all – we can create moments of joy that make a difference right now! 

Click here to register now!

Happy Creating!  I’d love to hear from you with any comments or questions you have.

Creatively yours,


…sharing the magic of puppetry