A finger in every letter

GLOVE AND FINGER PUPPETS. Alphabet finger puppets. Pounds 21.95 the set. Alphabet glove puppets. Pounds 49.95 the set. Hope Education, Orb Mill, Huddersfield Road, Waterhead, Oldham 0L4 2ST. Tel: 0161 633 66. 11Age range: pre-school.

Every early years teacher worth their chalk knows that play is one of the most important ways for young children to learn.

Hope Education's delightful alphabet glove and finger puppets are irresistible and can provide many opportunities for extending language and building a knowledge of the alphabet.

Each puppet represents a letter of the alphabet - A is an alligator and Z is a zebra, for example, with the letter clearly depicted.

The finger puppets are a replica of the glove puppets and both are made of brightly coloured felt; the glove puppets are double-stitched around the edge.

The finger puppets are of better quality with clearer definition. For instance M for mouse in the glove puppet looks unfinished to an adult's eye (although some of the children recognised it). The finger puppet version is much crisper, and there is no question that M is for mouse.

Similarly, the glove puppet for J looks like a clown, yet the finger puppet clearly is a jack-in-the-box. I'm not sure about the I for ink puppet, especially as this character was holding a quill. An ice-cream would have been more appropriate for Nineties children.

For a game of alphabet snap I combined both sets of puppets. Each child selected a glove puppet to wear (these are too small for an adult hand), and I held up a finger puppet and waited for the child with the matching puppet to shout "Snap!" followed by the sound.

Children begin to learn how to write often by scrawling their own name and, as the glove puppets show both upper and lower case, they can be a useful device for teaching letter recognition.

I placed a puppet with each child's initial on chairs at random and then asked the children to find their own chairs. This game was well received, with the children calling out the sounds to help others as they searched. Where there were two Sams and a Suzannah, I put the S puppet on a large beanbag, and all three children were delighted to squash on together.

The puppets are an excellent teaching resource, with plenty of potential for alphabet games to reinforce letter recognition and sounds. They will also prove useful for displays, storytelling and imaginative play in their own right.

Lorraine Frankish is early years co-ordinator, Casterton Community College,

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