Virtual puppet cats bring joy to children amid pandemic – Central Florida News – Health – Intersection
Michelee Puppets Executive Director Tracey Conner and her puppet Astrid Photo: courtesy Tracey Conner
Orlando puppeteer Tracey Conner has helped children cope with the uncertainty and stress of the pandemic – with a little help from her friends.
Conner, who is the Executive Director of Michelee Puppets, joins Intersection with her puppet Astrid to discuss the puppet conversations her company has broadcast online.
Conner says that when schools closed due to the pandemic, she knew there was going to be a need to reach children who were taking refuge at home and going through social isolation.
âFrom our long history of using puppets in all kinds of ways, we know they would be a good way to help kids reconnect, talk about some of their feelings, give them moments of joy. and to just help them get through their difficulties getting stuck at home, âshe said.
Parents can sign their kids up for a 10-minute video call with a puppet on Michelee Puppets’ website. Sometimes the puppets play games or have dance parties with children.
âWe laugh and we laugh and we dance and you know, we just have fun,â says Astrid. “You just have some kind of tactile base and you have a little joyful moment.”
Conner says the kids lead the conversations and often come back week after week with things they want to talk about.
She says kids can open up to puppets in ways they might not be able to with an adult.
âPuppets have this magical quality,â says Conner. “They seem real, but they’re not, and kids aren’t intimidated by them … so they feel free to express themselves.”
Conner says the puppet conversations impacted people in ways she never imagined. She remembers an uncommunicative autistic child who had to do a Zoom interview for school.
âHer mom signed her up to have these Zoom conversations with a puppet and she just blossomed,â says Conner. “She opened up and was able to carry on conversations, and she passed her interview for schoolâ¦ Her mother attributes that to the puppet conversations.”
Conner says the puppet conversations also helped a man from Canada whose brain was severely damaged after being assaulted.
âHe’s been talking to a puppet and a puppeteer in particular for probably eight months now,â she says. “He’s going through very difficult times and he talks about what happened to him.”
Conner says the puppet talks have been a healing experience for the puppeteers as well.
âMy great blessing in life is that I can use my art, my talent to help others and especially children,â she says. âAnd I’ve heard from the puppeteers who participate in the puppet cats that it has really meant a lot to them to be a part of these conversationsâ¦ It’s one of those beautiful things that we never expected, but it really meant a lot to them. is certainly the case. has been a positive outcome for us.