Sock Puppets: A Review and a Few Ways to Use it in Storytime, by Emily Lloyd
Confession: my driving motive in using apps in storytime is parent and caregiver education around choosing and using apps with kids. If I can highlight a strong content creation app, I’ve found a small way to promote the use of apps as fun tools to explore with children, and in the case of Sock Puppets, one more way parents and caregivers can work the early literacy practices of playing together and talking together into their day.
Sock Puppets is a free iOs app that allows you to choose from six puppets and several sets and act out and record a 30-second scene. Scenes can be saved for later playback and shared to Facebook or YouTube. After recording a voice sample, you can set the pitch of each puppet’s voice, so that when you record your scene, playback transforms your own voice into the differently-pitched voices of the puppets. Here, to me, lies the magic of the app when it comes to use by children: from echoes to simple amplification to voice changers, kids love to hear their own speech repeated back to them, transformed. A child who does not already gravitate towards or feel comfortable acting out scenes with physical puppets or dolls might feel inspired and liberated by this feature and find a way “in” to dramatic play.
For storytime, I like the 30-second limit built into the free version of Sock Puppets–that’s the longest I’d want to play a pre-recorded stretch of video in storytime, anyway–but extended recording time is available as an upgrade for 99 cents. You can also purchase a wider array of puppets and backgrounds. The only upgrade I’ve purchased, also for 99 cents, is the ability to import my own photos as backdrops, so I can use photos of my library.
Here are a few ways I’ve found to use Sock Puppets in storytime to date:
1. I regularly introduce the letter of the day by having a physical puppet pull a foam letter from a bucket, asking the kids to call out the name of the letter as soon as they can see enough of its shape to identify it. Then I ask the kids what the letter sounds like at the beginning of a word. After this, I’ll quickly mention the Sock Puppets app to parents and caregivers, and play a short prepared scene reinforcing the letter of the day and its sound, and demonstrating our “Letter of the Day Song,” which we’ll sing together after watching the puppets sing it. If you’re satisfied with your first take, a video like this takes about 1 minute to create:
2. I’ll also occasionally use Sock Puppets to briefly introduce an important part of the library in a fun way (Where’s the nonfiction section and what does it include? What’s the Information Desk look like and what can I do there?), using a photo of a place in my library as a backdrop:
3. This is a bit goofier, but a quick way to reinsert our now-familiar Sock Puppets friends at the end of storytime to get kids jazzed about checking books out before leaving the library for the day:
Once you take a few minutes to get the hang of it, Sock Puppets is exceptionally simple to use–in theory, a preschooler could use it him or herself to record a surprise scene for or message to a parent, after first having played with it with an adult. I highly recommend this app both to parents and caregivers, and to storytime providers looking for a way to introduce app advisory in storytime.Emily Lloyd is a public librarian and lives in Minneapolis.