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Bringing virtues to life with puppets

I have been using a couple of Aesop's fables recently, the Lion and the Mouse and the Tortoise and the Hare in oral storytelling, a story basket, storytelling mat and a storytelling suitcase. These invitations have provided opportunities to explore morals and virtues with the children.

I am sure you know of some of Aesop’s fables but may not realise they are Aesop’s fables or recall them even though there are around 150. Aesop, was a slave and storyteller who lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. These stories were told orally and were not collected and written down until three centuries after Aesop's death.

Initially the fables were addressed to adults and covered religious, social and political themes. Providing moral and ethical guidelines in the guise of a story. I have focused more on virtues as morals are culturally and contextually bound and dictate what is right and wrong

Morals and what they are.

Morals are a learned set of ‘rules’ set by society or what is ‘right and wrong’

Sharing stories with a moral can communicate or acknowledge ‘good’ behaviour and may help to instill moral values or morality in children


  • Be polite.

  • Have empathy.

  • Don't steal.

  • Tell the truth.

  • Treat others as you want to be treated (the golden rule)

‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ can be problematic and this is why I am intentional about talking about virtues. For example, The Lion and the Mouse teaches the lesson that even the smallest acts of kindness can have a big impact, and is the basis for the 'golden rule', treat others as you want to be treated.

I like to pose questions to older children about how they can do this or how they have done this ('the golden rule').

Sam shared that “he always smiles at his friends because he like smiles from others as they make him happy”

Now, how to share or use Aesop’s fables with young children? It is best to use simple language and illustrations when sharing these stories with young children. I prefer to share them in a play-based way where they can explore being the characters and retell the story.

I find that puppets are a perfect way to Bring virtues to life and made 2 types:

  1. a cardboard print and use with Velcro dots to use the spoon with different stories or rhymes (for the time poor) and

  2. a felt ‘spoon hoods’ which are like finger puppets that slip onto a wooden spoon. I like both of these story spoons as the spoons can be used over and over again.

I also adapted the story and this is included in the e-pattern.

Puppets are a great way to model and introduce virtues. Exploring virtues builds children’s vocabulary and better express their feelings as well as understand how their actions impact others.

Some of the virtues expressed in Aesop’s fables are:

· Patience

· Honesty

· Respect

· Gentleness

· Generosity

· Courtesy

· Trust

· Kindness

· Flexibility

· Tolerance

Virtues can be defined as ‘those habits of the head, heart and hand that enable us to know the good, love the good, and do the good’ (Ryan et al,, 2011). Virtues are non-denominational, culturally inclusive and have no gender bias.

A tip when using puppets in oral storytelling is to use a large scarf or shawl wrapped around the front of your body. This acts as a backdrop or 'scene' for the the puppets and helps children to focus on the puppets.

You could also focus on character strengths with Aesop’s fables: courage, temperance, wisdom, justice, optimism, integrity, humility, and compassion.

I used the puppets in different invitations (a story basket, storytelling suitcase and moveable storytelling mat) to focus on a virtue or character strength.

The older children loved the felt puppets but I wasn't sure which ones the younger ones would like (I had thought the felt) and I was surprised to find the cardboard ones were more popular. This may have been because of the velcro dots on the back and being able to remove and reapply the lion and the mouse.

I had also introduced some 'choosing' or rhyme spoons with velcro dots where a child selects and image , places it on the spoon and we sing the song. They remove the image and the next child selects and image from the bag and the velcro noise was sometimes as popular as the song and 'choosing'. This is a $1 DIY resource.

Later I used 'Mousey' with the Lion. Mousey is a puppet I use and the children are familiar with. I share how I use Mousey in my storytelling mini-course - to grab and keep children’s attention (you get the pattern to make Mousey in the mini-course). Mousey was a perfect tool for talking about character strengths.

I also used the puppets and soft toys for children to practice kindness and rescue the Lion from the traps. This allowed the children to be the Mouse.

Once I had shared the Lion and the Mouse with puppets and props in a variety of ways I then shared the Tortoise and the Hare orally with none. It took a few times for the children to listen and I was able to adjust my storytelling without props or puppets and they were distracted at some points in the story. I adjusted the story and used techniques to drawn them into the storytelling. This fable the Tortoise and the Hare shows the value of perseverance and steady effort which was fitting based on telling it orally with no props to support.

You can share Aesop's fables in so many ways with young children from simply reading the stories together to using puppets or story spoons with the book or in a story basket, a storytelling suitcase, small world play, acting them out through play or discussing the lessons they teach. These timeless tales are a great way to help children to instill important values, character traits and if you wish develop their understanding of morals or right and wrong.


Ryan, K., Lerner, B., Bohlin, K., Nakayama, O., Mizuno, S., Horiuchi, K. (2011). eds. Happiness and virtue beyond East and West: Toward a new global responsibility. Tuttle Publishing

Until next time.


P.S. there are so many more Aesop’s fables you could choose from and here is a list:

  • The Frogs & the Ox

  • Belling the Cat

  • The Town Mouse & the Country Mouse

  • The Fox & the Grapes

  • The Wolf & the Crane

  • The Lion & the Mouse

  • The Gnat & the Bull

  • The Plane Tree

  • The Owl & the Grasshopper

  • The Oak & the Reeds

  • The Crow & the Pitcher

  • The Two Goats

  • The Wild Boar & the Fox

  • The Heron

  • The Fox & the Stork

  • The Stag & His Reflection

  • The Cock & the Fox

  • The Fox & the Goat

  • The Fox & the Leopard

  • The Frog & the Mouse

  • The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

  • The Eagle & the Beetle

  • The Mother & the Wolf

  • The Hare & the Tortoise

  • The Dog & His Reflection

  • The Fox & the Crow

  • The Ant & the Dove

  • The Man & the Satyr

  • The Hare & His Ears

  • The Fisherman & the Little Fish

  • The Wolf & the Kid

  • The Tortoise & the Ducks

  • The Young Crab & His Mother

  • The Dog, the Cock, & the Fox

  • The Eagle & the Jackdaw

  • The Boy & the Filberts

  • Hercules & the Wagoner

  • The Kid & the Wolf

  • The Bundle of Sticks

  • The Ass & His Driver

  • The Oxen & the Wheels

  • The Shepherd Boy & the Wolf

  • The Farmer & the Stork

  • The Sheep & the Pig

  • The Travelers & the Purse

  • The Lion & the Ass

  • The Frogs Who Wished for a King

  • The Wolf & His Shadow

  • The Rat & the Elephant

  • The Boys & the Frogs

  • The Ants & the Grasshopper

  • The Ass Carrying the Image

  • A Raven & a Swan

  • The Ass & the Load of Salt

  • The Lion & the Gnat

  • The Leap at Rhodes

  • The Cock & the Jewel

  • The Monkey & the Camel

  • The Ass, the Fox, & the Lion

  • The Birds, the Beasts, & the Bat

  • The Lion, the Bear, & the Fox

  • The Wolf & the Lamb

  • The Wolf & the Sheep

  • The Hares & the Frogs

  • The Travelers & the Sea

  • The Wolf & the Lion

  • The Peacock

  • The Mice & the Weasels

  • The Wolf & the Lean Dog

  • The Fox & the Lion

  • The Dog & his Master's Dinner

  • The Vain JackDaw & his Borrowed Feathers

  • The Monkey & the Dolphin

  • The Wolf & the Ass

  • The Monkey & the Cat

  • The Dogs & the Fox

  • The Dogs & the Hides

  • The Rabbit, the Weasel, & the Cat

  • The Bear & the Bees

  • The Dog in the Manger

  • The Wolf & the Goat

  • The Ass & the Grasshoppers

  • The Mule

  • The Cat, the Cock, & the Young Mouse

  • The Wolf & the Shepherd

  • The Peacock & the Crane

  • The Farmer & the Cranes

  • The Farmer & His Sons

  • The Two Pots

  • The Goose & the Golden Egg

  • The Fighting Bulls & the Frog

  • The Mouse & the Weasel

  • The Farmer & the Snake

  • The Sick Stag

  • The Goatherd & the Wild Goats

  • The Spendthrift & the Swallow

  • The Cat & the Birds

  • The Dog & the Oyster

  • The Astrologer

  • Three Bullocks & a Lion

  • Mercury & the Woodman

  • The Fox & the Crab

  • The Serpent & the Eagle

  • The Bull & the Goat

  • The Old Lion & the Fox

  • The Man & the Lion

  • The Ass & the Lap Dog

  • The Milkmaid & Her Pail

  • The Wolf & the Shepherd

  • The Goatherd & the Goat

  • The Miser

  • The Wolf & the House Dog

  • The Fox & the Hedgehog

  • The Bat & the Weasels

  • The Quack Toad

  • The Fox Without a Tail

  • The Mischievous Dog

  • The Rose & the Butterfly

  • The Cat & the Fox

  • The Boy and the Nettles

  • The Old Lion

  • The Fox & the Pheasants

  • Two Travelers & a Bear

  • The Porcupine & the Snakes

  • The Fox & the Monkey

  • The Flies & the Honey

  • The Eagle & the Kite

  • The Stag, the Sheep, & the Wolf

  • The Animals & the Plague

  • The Shepherd & the Lion

  • The Bees & Wasps, & the Hornet

  • The Lark & Her Young Ones

  • The Cat & the Old Rat

  • The Ass & His Shadow

  • The Miller, His Son, & the Ass

  • The Wolf, the Kid, and the Goat

  • The Swallow & the Crow

  • Jupiter & the Monkey

  • The Lion, the Ass, & the Fox

  • The Lion's Share

  • The Mole & His Mother

  • The North Wind & the Sun

  • The Wolves & the Sheep

  • The Cock & the Fox

  • The Ass in the Lion's Skin

  • The Fighting Cocks & the Eagle

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