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These owl puppets are from the Puppet Company and were a present that my son received when he was about 18 months old from a dotting grandpa. The owls are recommended to be for children over 3 years old but I don't think my dad realised that when he bought them but my son has enjoyed playing with these since the beginning under supervision so I would say they are ok for young children provided they are well supervised with them.
In this Tawny owl puppet set there are four owls there is a large mother owl and three owl chicks. The chicks are all designed to be used as finger puppets the finger sizes are probably on the generous side and an adult can fit a finger in them with ease but the padding on the chicks mean that a small child can place a finger in the puppet too and get it flap and do some actions.. They are about 10cm tall and are made from a lovely soft tufted fabric that is a light brown colour that has various shading on it to help it resemble feathers. Whilst they are no totally life like they do resemble very well fluffy baby owls the material is lovely and tactile and most people who have played with these can't resist giving the little owls a stroke. Equally if you are reading a story to a child with the owl and the owl goes to talk to them they have I found most people love to snuggle against the softness of the fabric of the babies The eyes are made from plastic beads and I think this is part of the reason it is recommend for children 3 years and above. However the eyes have stay put in all the babies we have and are sewn in very tight. As the inside of the finger puppet is lined you also can't catch yourself on the backing of the eyes as you or your child puts there fingers in to make the owls move. The beak is made from a leather effect material and is very cunningly crafted to give the appearance of a long beak with no sharp edges. The feet are perhaps the least realistic part of the owl baby in that they are made from a grey felt like material with brown embossed talons. The wings on the babies are all very small and there isn't a slot for you to place a finger into the wing to make it move instead you have to jiggle or flap your fingers and hand for the wings to move. The wings have a small piece of Velcro on each end so you can wrap the wings around each bird or as we have on occasions attach all the baby birds in a line together as if they are lined up on a branch.
The owl mother is about 30 cm high and is made from a more traditional teddy bear fabric on her front and under her wings. On the rear of her wings and back the fabric is a lovely mottled effect that is designed to look like feather and is less soft and downy and it is more raised and in texture and appearance. Again whilst not a direct life like representation of a tawny owl it is easy to see that the puppet is a large owl. This appearance is reinforced with the large wide open glass eyes and leather effect beak. I was a little concerned that the feet and claws on the owl may come off as they appear to be lightly stitched to the bottom as they flap around so easily but in the 18 months of use they are still firmly attached. The detail in the feet is very good as there is even a talon bit at the rear of the foot as a real life bird would have. The wings in this puppet unlike the baby can be used to create movement. If you have your hand facing forward i.e. palm to beak it is tricky I find to get more than a gently flap to the wings but if you place the puppet on the other way round i.e. palm to back then the wings have fantastic movement in them and the wings and the owl can flap and soar as much as you wish. The wings on the mother also have some Velcro on them and this can be used to allow her to cuddle all her babies to her and keep them safe.
I have to say I am very pleased with how well made they are and despite some rough handling at times over the 2 years nearly we have had them they are still holding up well. The owls are however surface washable only so I have found that if they have had a spill on one of them it is best to wipe it up straight way to reduce staining. The insides of the puppets are all lined with soft material and I find that unlike some cheaper puppets we have the lining has remained intact with no damage and the padding in the owls is good enough that if the owl is being heavy patted by a child your hand is well protected inside.
Now I have to admit I wasn't sure how my son was going to react to the owls given at the time he got them the mother owl was a lot bigger than his own head. However they have really surprised me and he has always shown and interest in them. Initially at 18 months he would be happy to watch them fly or sit and listen to them reading him a story or illustrate one if it had an owl or bird in it. As he got a bit older he would try to manoeuvre the babies owls by holding them rather than using them as a puppet but over the course of time he has moved on to placing a few fingers into the babies to get them to leap about the place. He loves putting them on his fingers and flapping him wings around and pretending they are coming into a nest he has built for them. He has also on occasions had a baby owl attached to his wrist to pretend he is a knight going hawking and he has loved doing this especially after we have been to bird of prey displays. The owl mother he was taken with from the first and would initially use it as a cuddly toy so we would have to keep a close eye on him to ensure there were no missing eyes but they have all stayed firmly in place. He is now able to put his whole hand and arm into the mother owl to get her to fly and move around the place and enjoys pretending she is talking to her babies and getting them to behave and give them pretend worms. His hands are still too small to go into the wing area of the mother so again he just jiggles the puppet around to get the wings to flap.
One other things my son loves most with these owls is when we read the story Owl Babies with them and we use all the puppets to act out the story. He just adores using the babies to be Sarah Percy and Bill and will have them hopping on to branches to watch for their mother to come back home. He likes me to use the mother owl to come back to the nest for them. Using the puppets this way seems to make the story much more alive for him and he tells the story in his own words now as we act it out. I find that if he is a bit over tired and restless for some reason if I use the owls to tell a story he will listen better than just mummy reading it and they seem to capture his imagination a bit more on these occasions than I can alone.
As with most of the puppets we have they seem to go on a lot of adventures now that he is into imaginative play a lot more and he will take them to rescue other animals or be rescued by him dressed up as a fireman when they are stuck in a tree. The boundaries of these owls really are only as far as their imagination will take them. In any given day they can get up to all sorts of mischief in our house that they will then need to be treated by my son with his vet set. As they move around so much this means he is able to examine them and treat them a lot more ways than some of his other animals.
We have at the moment only very basic puppet shows with these such as the acting out of stories but I do think as my son gets older he will use these alongside other puppets to make up his own puppet shows and stories.
I have also to admit these puppets are great at times for improving communication and to help me be a bit sneaky. For example when my son does not want to do something for me like pick his toys up he will often do it for the owl or will help the owl with a job.
I have seen some of the puppets from The Puppet Company being used to help young children with speech problems or shyness or emotional problems with community psychiatric teams and they always seem to be more willing to do things for the puppet or communicate with the puppet than the adults in the team and for that alone I think these puppets are great.
I would definitely recommend these owl puppets to families of young children they are well made and great fun for both adults and children to use to tell stories, make up plays and generally use for imaginative play in any way you can imagine. They always raise a smile and a giggle to my sons face when we use them to act out stories and fly them around the house so for that alone they are worth 5 stars. The puppets are currently available from Amazon for around £20 from.