This script will work with any cute puppet whose mouth opens and shows teeth, but I've found a crocodile the most engaging with preschoolers. Some toddlers find him a bit scary, so you might like to choose a different animal puppet.
A few hints for using puppets to teach skills
Puppets are a fantastic medium for teaching children in a non-threatening, non-confrontational way. A teacher can be stern with a puppet who has 'done the wrong thing', and tell the puppet very firmly why that was the wrong thing... and a little child who's just done exactly that wrong thing will get the message, without feeling so confronted that they burst into tears. You can let the puppets demonstrate new skills, and ask the children to help them- it's much less scary to try something new with a cute puppet.
It's important to use a 'special' puppet of your own which isn't available for general play. Don't allow the children to wrest him out of your hands (make him run away and hide if the children stand up and come towards you or try to grab him, and tell them he's scared, sit down!). Definitely don't let the children use that puppet themselves- tell them it's his bed time every time they beg you to play with him, and then put him away very gently and quietly in a special place.
Always treat the puppet as though he's alive, even when putting him away- talk to him just like you do to the kids and handle him gently. You have to keep him 'special' and create a magical air around him if he's going to help you teach the children health and social skills.
Here's a simple, non-confrontational way to start talking about dental hygiene. If you've ever seen a 4-year-old child screaming in pain from toothache, as I have, you'll realise the importance of teaching this skill in a really positive way.
Cast: Mr Crocodile, teacher.
Mr C starts out hidden, either under the teacher's jacket or behind a puppet theatre-style barrier.
Preparation: collect and hide three brushes with Mr C- a shaving brush, a paint brush and a toothbrush will do. Have some pretend food at hand- something not so nourishing!- plastic bar of chocolate?
TEACHER (calling): Mr Crocodile! Mr Crocodile! Where are you?
(MR C pops one eye out, then disappears again)
TEACHER: (to class) Where IS that crocodile? Can you see him? (listen to class' answers and respond by looking for him- he stays hidden) Well I can't see him. Can YOU call him for me?
CLASS: MR CROCODILE!
(MR C pops both eyes out, then disappears again)
TEACHER: (whisper to class) I bet he's hiding because he knows what I'm going to say. I bet he hasn't cleaned his teeth today! Maybe he'll come out for some 'sometimes' food... I've got some chocolate here.
MR C (popping completely into view) Did someone say CHOCOLATE?
TEACHER (hiding chocolate): No chocolate for you till you talk to me! Did you clean your teeth this morning, Mr Crocodile?
(MR C drops his head or hides his face in teacher's jacket)
TEACHER: I think that's a NO! Where's your toothbrush?
(Mr C disappears, reappears with a shaving or makeup brush)
TEACHER (to class): Is that a toothbrush?
TEACHER: What is it then? (field responses, if necessary tell them what it is used for- let Mr Crocodile use it on your face to demonstrate)
TEACHER: Go and find your TOOTHBRUSH.
(Mr C disappears, reappears with a paint brush)
TEACHER (to class): Is that a toothbrush?
TEACHER: What is it then? (field responses, talk about how we use it)
TEACHER: Mr Crocodile? NO MORE FOOLING ABOUT! Go and find your
(Mr C disappears, reappears reluctantly with toothbrush)
TEACHER: THANK you. Now, do you remember how to clean your teeth?
(Mr C shakes head)
TEACHER (sighs, takes toothbrush): Alright, open your mouth and I'll show you. Front... (clean front of teeth, clean each part as you say it)... sides... on top of them all... now the back sides... don't forget to clean your tongue...
MR C (giggling): That tickles! Can I have my chocolate now?
TEACHER: But you just cleaned your teeth!
MR C: But the kids can help me clean them again afterwards.
TEACHER: Okay, but just one bite!
MR C: Yippee! (pretends to eat chocolate)
TEACHER: That's enough for now. Who would like to help Mr Crocodile clean his teeth? (Choose 5 children- different children will clean front, sides, tops, back sides, tongue- encourage gentle hands so puppet doesn't get damaged!)
MR C (to each child before their turn): Did YOU clean your teeth this morning?
MR C: Good, you'll know how to do it then. Off you go- be gentle!
MR C: Well it's time you had some practice then! Will you promise to clean you teeth when you go home? Pleeeeeeease? Okay, gentle hands now!
TEACHER: How does that feel, Mr Crocodile?
MR C: It's great! I feel all fresh in my mouth!
TEACHER (sniffing in his mouth): Mmmm, you smell good too. Did you know that dirty teeth smell bad? If you smell bad, your friends might not want to play with you. It's always better to be clean. And now you won't get holes in your teeth from that chocolate. Holes in your teeth hurt!
(When teeth have been cleaned, teacher needs to transition to the next activity using the puppet- don't just throw him in a corner, he's alive!!! He can be sent off to bed, in his special sleeping bag on a high shelf... he can start a game of catch by popping a small plastic ball out of his mouth towards different children... he can go off to play with his 'friends' in the storeroom... he can help you talk about sometimes foods, or take the paint brush back to the easel so children can use it for art activities... up to you!)