The Incredible Years® Blog

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Pre-K teachers using puppets to reach out to their students remotely for IY Dinosaur School

  • Emily Parkey (Program Consultant at Invest in Kids) and Carley Maloney (Pre-K teacher at Southeast Elementary School in Brighton’s 27j District, Colorado)
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Emily Parkey and Carley Maloney

It has been wonderful to connect remotely with our Pre-K students through Dinosaur School during our school’s closure.  Our Pre-K scholars love Molly, Wally, Dina, and Tiny.  Continuing Dinosaur School throughout the break has given them a chance to continue a familiar, joyful routine, and visit with puppet friends at a time when interacting with other friends is difficult, if not impossible.

Every week Pre-K students and their parents receive a message or video from Molly or Dina.  So far, these lessons have focused upon exploring students’ feelings, and ways that students can help themselves to feel better when they are feeling uncomfortable feelings like boredom, fear, frustration, and sadness.  Students and their parents respond to the lessons by sending in photos and texts of how they are feeling, and what they are doing to change uncomfortable feelings into more positive ones.  So far students have shared great ideas with their parents, teachers, and each other!

In the accompanying lesson, recorded on iMovie, you’ll have a chance to see the lesson introduced by Ms. Carley.  Then, Dina takes over to share some ideas that students shared with Molly to help cheer her up during the break.  We’ve found that showing pictures of ways that real students are coping is very exciting and motivating for both themselves and their peers!  Students make sure to tune in every Wednesday to see not only Dina, but pictures of themselves and their Friends.

Finally, Ms. Carley ends by reiterating the homework assignment and ways in which students can complete the assignment.  One real gem of doing virtual lessons is that parents are more and more connected to what students are learning and ways that they can have conversations with their children at home.


Please see our website for more sample video messages to preschoolers from teachers and puppets, plus a sample format for delivering on-line calls with children and sample scripts for using the puppets to talk with children about feelings.


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Puppet News from Puppeteer and Program Developer: Improv and No Strings Attached!

CWS smiling .jpgWe have 6 new puppet videos to share!

In these new video clips with the Incredible Years puppets, Carolyn Webster-Stratton, the developer of the Incredible Years programs, talks to the child puppets about their feelings. She encourages the child puppets to share their feelings in response to the Covid-19 virus and helps them remember times when they have felt nervous, or lonely, or afraid in the past and how they have learned to cope with those uncomfortable feelings in order to feel safe, less bored, patient, fair, less lonely, brave and supported.

Teachers can share these video clips with other children in an interactive way. Teachers or child therapists can pause the video clip when the puppet is talking about a particular uncomfortable feeling such as boredom or nervousness or unfairness or loneliness or feeling unsafe to talk about the children’s own feelings at this time. When the child puppet shares ways to cope with these feelings the teacher can encourage their students to share their solutions for ways they can think and behave in order to feel better.Carolyn and Wally 2.jpg

Teachers and parents may also watch these vignettes to learn ways they can use puppets themselves with their children or students to address their specific feelings. Since children ages 4-8 years are cognitively in what Piaget calls the pre-operational stage of cognitive brain development, the use of pretend and imaginative play can be a powerful way of helping children to talk about their feelings and for learning ways to not only manage any uncomfortable feelings but also ways to manage their behavior responses in healthy ways. We hope to encourage children to write about or draw pictures about their solutions and share them with others.

Hot Tip: With puppets you can open the door to helping children talk about their feelings or to write stories about or draw pictures about their experiences. It is important not to pressure these discussions and to focus when possible on positive feelings such as being brave, confident, strong, healthy, helpful, caring, happy, curious, creative, patient and loving.

Download Sample Scripts for Using Puppets to Talk with Children about Feelings

Molly Talks About Feeling Safe

Luciana Talks About Feeling Nervous

Felicity Talks About Feeling Lonely

Wally Talks About Feeling Bored

Freddy Talks About Feeling Impatient

Antonio Talks About Feeling It’s Not Fair


Please see our Resources for Group Leaders Working Remotely for handouts and activities for connecting with children and families.


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Tips and Activities for Grandparents and Other Loved Ones to Reach Out to Children Remotely

Unexpected Advantages of Sheltering: How Grandparents and Special Friends Can Help By Reaching Out to Young Children Remotely  – “Nana and Pops Olympics”

      • by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.

I was yearning to connect with my young grandchildren and to help their parents, who I figured were overwhelmed with caretaking 24/7 because of school closures. We started “hanging out” and this has been a wonderful gift for me. – Zanny Milo, grandmother of 8 who live in 2 different states

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Carolyn and Wally talk to children via Zoom


As stay-at-home orders are implemented across the world, many grandparents, aunts, uncles, or special friends are acutely feeling the loss and social isolation of being away from the children that they care about. During times of stress and hardship for families, the natural impulse is to gather to help and offer support, but that avenue is temporarily cut-off by the Covid-19 virus. At the same time parents of young children are stressed with working from home, exhausted with the demands of home-schooling, or just needing a break from the non-stop energy needed to be a parent to a young child who is suddenly thrown out of the usually daily routine. Grandparents, other relatives, and friends may be frustrated by not being able to step in to offer childcare, support, and also to enjoy the company of their special children.

When I suggest that they use FaceTime, What’s App, Zoom, Google Hangout, or Skype to connect remotely with these children some respond that they don’t know how to do this. While this may feel like a daunting computer task to learn, I will confess that a month ago I was clueless about Zoom’s possibilities. Now I rarely go a day without 4-5 Zoom calls. Whether you use FaceTime, What’s App, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or some other telecommunication platform that I haven’t heard of yet, it is well worth dina with computer .jpgchallenging yourself to learn one of these platforms and use it to connect with grandchildren or young children you have special relationships with. After all, since you are secluded at home, you do have the time to learn something new and very likely the parents of these children would be happy to help you learn. Not only will these children love and look forward to this connection with you, but it will give their parents a break and time for self-care, or some important call they needed to make without their children being present. Moreover, you will feel the joy as well as increased intimacy as you see the children’s responses.

Simply calling to chat will get old quickly as children are home missing daily routines and activities. Instead, join the “Nana Olympics” or “Pops Games” to help teach young children counting, math, reading, art, science, writing stories, or sharing a hobby of passion with you.

The document linked below is about some interactive ways you can use video calling tools to connect and play with young children. You can even help enhance their learning of academic concepts and social and emotional competence. Once you get started, you will likely discover all sorts of activities you can make up. The video calling approach follows the principles of Incredible Years Parenting Programs, that is:

  • to be developmentally appropriate and geared to child’s interests
  • to be child-directed using narrated commenting to enhance language development
  • to encourage expression of feelings through emotional coaching and pretend play
  • to reinforce social skills such as sharing, waiting and helping through social coaching
  • to enhance problem solving and confidence through persistence coaching
Even from a distance you can provide valuable support to children and their parents. I am sure you will enjoy this remote adventure into the creative minds of young children.

Download Carolyn’s tips and activities for grandparents and other loved ones to connect with children remotely

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