I recently had the unique opportunity to try out this toy/book/play stage/imagination provoker/learning environment out with two generations of adults (the parents and the grand parents) and two children, ages 2 and 6. The most impressive aspect that hits you almost immediately, is that these Puppet Show Books, developed by Lisa Leleu, a Parisian currently living with her husband, Frederic who does the business for the products, in Pennsylvania, is that the materials have engaging aspects for and application to children at a variety of ages and developmental levels.
The two year old was interested and could engage with it – in his own way. The six year old jumped right in, operated the puppet (built in) herself and began to generate the stories the books invite the children to create. A versatile toy that children of varying ages can enjoy and learn from is a real value added in these days of specialization – toys for ages 3-5, 5-7, 7-9, etc.
But to the Puppet Show Books themselves.
On a sturdy cardboard ‘cover’, there is the front of a puppet (hand in from the back of the book), in this case – one Diggity the Dog, who the adult can use to engage the child in a simple story to be read right beneath the puppet and in which Diggity is places so as to be the central character in the story. On the facing (left) page, there is a stage opening to place Diggity there, when the time is right, and on which other, more complex and less complete stories are presented. This side aims more at older children whose need to create and imagine grows as they do and here, they actually create their own stories on themes presented by an assortment of available books.
Both sets of books – right and left – simple and invitational, are replaceable with an entire series of books and are easily replaced by Velcro fasteners attached to both these sub-books and to the main binder itself.But to the Puppet Show Books themselves. Both of the LeLeus have a special interest in children with special needs, including those with Autism. The visual thinking style if the Autistic child, vs the more ‘common’ verbal thinking of most children, is well suited to these materials as words are secondary – unless, of course, the adult playing with the child chooses to emphasize them. Again, a strong and, in my experience, unusual piece of versatility in adaptability of something made for children.
These Puppet Show Books were awarded Creative Child Magazine’s Top Toy of the Year Award in 2005 – an honor well deserved. So, using Diggity (who is incredibly adorable) to engage young kids, they can read, learn to read as well as create their own stories. That’s a lot of options for one ‘toy’ – especially given its nearly unlimited range of developmental application. Equally useful to parents and teachers, it offers a range of learning opportunities uniquely and engagingly packaged in one device. My only suggestion would be that the LeLeus think about adding the availability of some books in a dry-erase format so they can be reused by kids after they have created one story with them. As they are, each book to be created is usable for only one time.
I do regard that as a minor flaw and design suggestion and wholeheartedly recommend these Puppet Show Books to parents and educators alike – for both children who learn in the ‘mainstream’ way as well as for those who precess information in ways that are different. All children play to learn and all children love to play!