Using puppets to help young children make healthier choices: The Al’s Pals program

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Al’s Pals, developed and distributed by Wingspan, is a comprehensive, resilience-based curriculum that fosters social-emotional skills in young children. The lessons revolve around Al, a hand puppet and a positive role model, and focus on helping children regulate their feelings and behavior, appreciate diversity, build positive relationships, and make healthy choices (including understanding the harm caused by using drugs, alcohol and tobacco). Conflict resolution, peaceful decision-making and creating a caring and respectful classroom environment are among the skills taught in this program.

The curriculum includes 46 lessons of approximately 10-15 minutes each, with two lessons taught per week. Lessons include the use of puppets, movement, role-play and original music, and are taught by teachers who have attended Al’s Pals training. Teacher training workshops typically lasts 2 days, and are available in person or online.

Research shows Al’s Pals to lead to increases in positive social behavior, and decreases in both conduct problems and emotional distress. Furthermore, Al’s Pals is recognized by CASEL as a “SELect” program and by the Canadian Best Practices Portal as a “best practice” program..