The importance of using puppets, soft toys and props for young Breadies.

Puppets and soft toys are often a must-have for teachers of young learners, particularly those teaching ESL. There is something about small companions in the classroom that can help children relax and feel entertained, and when you’re in a one-to-one setting where English is spoken throughout, these companions can prove very useful.

In this week’s Wednesday Wisdom, we’ll take a look at how puppets and soft toys can be used to aid your session and help Breadies fully engage with the content.

Helping build confidence.

Young Breadies can find themselves quite intimidated when first encountering the online education world. There they are propped up at a desk in front of a potential stranger, having to speak a foreign language. For most adults this is arguably quite a daunting experience, so it’s no surprise that many Breadies can start off a bit shy.

For Breadies who seem nervous, are a little too shy to speak, or who seem to be distracted, using a puppet or a prop allows them to focus on you but through a protective shield.

Many Buddies find that incorporating props, animals and puppets into the session which the Bready can talk to or through, helps make them feel safe when communicating with a teacher who may seem a little big and scary.

I tend to use familiar cartoon characters that they know in picture props to extend topics. Like Elsa sleeping or playing or eating. It gets them excited to talk an tell me what the character is doing.


I always use my smurf teddy with unimpressed Breadies. Most of the time it helps, especially with the shy ones. He has a big blue nose which gets giggles!


Puppets also have the benefit of helping young Breadies understand that making mistakes are okay! If you as a Buddy have a ‘conversation’ with your puppet, you can get them to make mistakes speaking English, such as getting them to guess a wrong colour or pointing in the wrong direction, then either getting the Bready to correct the puppet, or correcting them yourself, in a humorous way so your Bready knows it’s okay to try.

Having a friend in the class to practice with

Linked to feeling confident, the puppet – who in many cases is a silly character who can make the Bready laugh – is also a good character to practise with! Or can act as a secondary student in the classroom. For simple conversations, it can make it clearer who is meant to be speaking and the intonation different sentences and topics require.

I like to give my puppets personalities. On one hand this is to exhibit mood and different tones of English, but on the other it’s also for my/a parent’s entertainment.


Developing a session routine

Having a set lesson routine is something very important for young learners. It helps them understand when to speak, when they are about to have a game, and when they should get ready to think!

Puppets and soft toys can act as signals for when one section of a session is about to happen. If you get a puppet out when conversation practise is coming up for example, your Bready will know the time has come for them to ask and answer questions with the puppet! At the beginning of the session, it may be that the introduction of the puppet helps the Bready know it’s time to go through introduction questions such as ‘how are you?’ ‘What have you done today?’ etc.

Regaining attention

We’ve all had Breadies who either through being shy, or tired, or frustrated don’t want to pay attention to the session. And you know what? Maybe they’d rather be playing with their toys! Bringing out a puppet or soft toy can act as a magnet for Breadies, who often get entranced by soft and colourful looking creatures.

As Cara shares from her experience:

I have a Bready who struggles to concentrate during the lesson. One lesson, she showed me a cell phone that she had made from paper. So I followed her lead, I picked up my cell phone to my ear, and I gave the entire lesson via the “phone”. This kept her engaged a little more than normal. She also had all her animal friends talk to me on the phone.


Props in this case, refocus and make sessions more visually interesting for Breadies. It’s also a great way to go over different topics! For sessions surrounding particular topics like moods, body parts, clothes or colours, puppets and toys allow you to go through these areas whilst pointing at different parts of the toy. In turn, your Bready can also show you the different colour/body parts or moods by pointing at their toys!

The IQBar Prop Pack

The best news? All contracted Buddies receive a Buddy Prop Pack which includes a whole host of props and the famous IQBar wiggle! The ideal classroom companion, free of charge. You can find out more about the Buddy Prop Pack in our previous post:

Let us know how you use puppets and toys in sessions! Comment below, or send us an email to