Children learn respect for diversity with the help of puppets
Persona Doll method uses a puppet as a mediator between children and teachers, as part of the EU Child Guarantee pilot-programme.
Davor, the puppet, has been visiting kindergarten children in Međimurje County for some time now. They gladly share both their challening and happy life moments with him. Kindergarten teacher Lana, with the “help“ of puppet Davor, addresses various important topics in her kindergarten group”, of four-year-olds. After completing the education, delivered as part of the “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia”, pilot-programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by UNICEF in Međimurje with 11 partners, Lana applies the Persona Doll method, recognized as one of the most valuable approaches for working with children on developing respect for diversity. The doll serves as a mediator between children and teachers. Children open up more easily with the doll, expressing their feelings and opinions about life situations and experiences which the doll “tells” them about, and thus learn to spot injustice, stand up for themselves and others, strengthen their emotional literacy, develop self-esteem, and build their own identity.
“Persona Doll method is key to solving problem situations in the group”, explains Lana, adding that the most important thing is for children to identify and connect with the puppet. It is necessary to carefully design the identity of the puppet, as well as the specific situations where it appears among children.
“When we approach the group with a topic that is a current problem situation, we have to direct and adapt that problem situation and identity of the puppet to a certain problem and specific child, but we also have to be very careful so that the child themself is not directly associated with a chosen scenario”, explains Lana and introduces Davor.
“There are mostly four-year-olds in our group, so our puppet Davor is also four years old. He comes from the nearby town of Čakovec, where he attends kindergarten. He has a best friend. Davor is a cheerful boy, he likes to cooperate, like the rest of our group. Currently, in the group, we are focusing on practical life topics, because we were in the process of transitioning from nursery school to kindergarten. We also went through some difficult and sad adjustments in our group, considering that the children got two new teachers”, explains teacher Lana.
Children tell us that Davor is their friend who comes to visit them in kindergarten with interesting stories.
“Davor is kind, he is four years old like us”, they tell us all together.
With the help of the puppet, Lana talks to the children about various topics that help them recognize feelings and overcome prejudices.
The results of working with the Persona Doll method, as Lana tells us, are most visible when children are expressing empathy towards friends or teachers.
“Since we work on happy, but also on some sad practical life situations, they have managed to develop great feelings of empathy and have begun to express feelings at certain moments in the group when discussing the problem of separation from parents. Our puppet can break some prejudices in children by sharing a topic which is relevant in that group. Where we detect a problem, we can use it to solve the problem in a very easy, and constructive way”, continues Lana.
It is important to also talk about happy events, because then the children relax and truly accept the doll as a friend, so Saint Nicholas visited the group after watching the show at the Cultural Center.
“Davor visited our group with a similar story of how Saint Nicholas visited his kindergarten as well, so they identified with him and opened up to share their stories. He also told them about how he experienced the visit, and that's where the strong connection with our Davor was created”, concludes Lana Kovačić.
With the main aim of reducing child poverty and social exclusion for all children across the European Union, the European Commission, in partnership with UNICEF, is implementing a pilot-program "Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee" in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Spain.
Croatia was given the opportunity to pilot programme Testing of the EU Child Guarantee, in cooperation with the European Commission and UNICEF, to work on solving child poverty and social exclusion. To develop new service models and best practices for children and their families, UNICEF will use its experience, partnerships and capacities by modeling integrated multidisciplinary, adequately funded family and community services in Medjimurje County, a region with limited access to child protection and family support services. UNICEF's approach includes three components: access to integrated child protection and family support services, access to early childhood education and access to integrated and coordinated early childhood intervention services.
© UNICEF, 2023“The information and views set out in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.”
Open Academy Step by Step is implementing partner of the UNICEF Croatia for the implementation of the pilot programme “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia”, funded by the European Union.