I so appreciate the community's support of the Friends School's first Parenting for Peace event. We had a great response - 20 teachers signed up for our workshop "Using Puppets in the Classroom" and we had an additional 10 on our waiting list. We are estimating 80 - 100 people attended the public lecture.
In the workshop, Susan described the utility for ADULTS in having a childlike / child-identified puppet as a parenting/teaching partner. Children's interactions with the puppet may be less inhibited than with us as adults, and the puppet can say and do things, or experience situations, that open up great conversations for adults and children.
She encouraged us to make, buy, and use very simple and gender ambigious puppets to reduce the scripting that kids will bring to the interaction. Susan suggested that we might get special and larger puppets that become true characters in our lives and classrooms. Puppets that kids use can be really simple- mittens with button eyes, or gloves with magic marker faces, or sock puppets (a google search reveals tons of web sites with easy instructions). In the workshop, we also talked about how older kids can make puppets and begin a journey of self-expression through what they choose to create.
In the larger forum, Linn argued that parents and teachers are engaging children who are living in a toxic culture. She largely blames the increasing corporatization and heightened consumerism of our post-deregulation media. Kids are bombarded with the message that buying things will bring them happiness, and if they're not made happy by their things they probably need more, newer, or different things. Of course, happiness research reveals the opposite -- after we have our general needs met (and of course, these are defined by our culture), more things do not make us happier. Helping kids deconstruct and resist these messages is tough, and made harder by the fact that we all are effected and busy and stressed.
She shared some resources and ideas for creating social change (check out the Campaign for a Commerical Free Childhood) -- clearly, more are needed!
Books she suggested:
The Parents We Mean to Be by Weissbourd
Free Range Kids by Skenazy (her blog is here)
Books by Nancy Carlson-Paige and Diane Levin about helping kids "play through" media violence and other trauma that they experience.