Best Hand Puppet Sets

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

35 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
442 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best hand puppet sets

Last Updated November 2019

Do you and your child like to bring storytime to life? Invite characters into your playtime with a hand puppet set. Hand puppet sets provide interactive learning and play experience for young children. Not only do they foster imagination and stimulate intellectual curiosity, hand puppets are a great alternative to electronics and video games.

Hand puppet sets are made with soft plush materials that are touch-friendly for children. They feature animals and characters and often come grouped together in fun themed sets. Depending on the age of your child, you might gravitate toward traditional hand puppets, finger puppets, or integrated mitt styles. Hand puppets are ideal learning tools for early childhood educators as well, which is why they’re so popular in classrooms, daycare centers, and therapeutic environments.

Bring some animation and imagination into your child’s life with a hand puppet set. Our buying guide has everything you need to know to choose fun, age-appropriate puppets for your child. For our five favorite hand puppet sets, see the matrix above.

Parents and teachers can use hand puppet sets to discuss difficult subjects with young children. Puppets are friendly and relatable for kids and can encourage dialogue between children and adults.

Key considerations

Purpose

Hand puppet sets are fun, engaging toys that are ideal for playtime or storytime because they bring stories to life. Children use their imagination to assign personalities to puppets and make up stories for them. Parents also appreciate hand puppets, especially since they’re interactive toys that aren’t electronic.

Early childhood educators use hand puppet sets in their classrooms to promote learning comprehension, especially for vocabulary development and reading. Educators also often use puppets to present social scenarios to students that encourage respect, positive communication, and personal boundaries. Guidance counselors use puppets with young children to aid in conflict resolution and promote better interpersonal relationships with fellow students as well as teachers.

In therapeutic settings, hand puppets are used to encourage communication between children and adults. Occupational therapists, family therapists, and social workers utilize hand puppets in role-playing exercises that facilitate conversation when discussing sensitive matters, such as divorce, death, or traumatic experiences. Sometimes hand puppets are a disarming tool that relaxes tension in the room. Other times children and adults speak through the puppets, which can help children discover their own voice and become confident discussing their feelings.

Recommended ages

Hand puppet sets are fun for young kids and are generally used from birth through elementary school. Like any toys, though, there are age recommendations based on safety. Hand puppets that are ideal for babies to age two only have sewn-on details, such as embroidered eyes and whiskers, for maximum safety.

Age recommendations for hand puppet sets also take into consideration how safe a child will be when playing with the puppets unsupervised. Hand puppets that have plastic eyes or details that could be removed are generally recommended for ages three and up. Finger puppets also fall into this age category as they are considered small enough to be a choking hazard.

EXPERT TIP

If bathtime is a challenge, bath hand puppet sets can make it more fun for everyone. Bath puppets also offer a good opportunity to learn about sea creatures as many feature aquatic animals.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Puppet styles

Traditional hand puppets have a sock-like body that fits over the hand. There are usually arms and sometimes legs that you can wiggle with your fingers. When purchasing these styles, make sure the puppet has a universal fit for children and adults alike.

Finger puppets also have a sock-like body, though they are small enough to fit over the fingers. These puppets do not have movable parts like full-size hand puppets. Finger puppets are one-size-fits-all, so they fit loosely over any child or adult’s fingers.

Mitt puppets are newcomers to the hand puppet market. With this style, finger puppets are attached to a mitt or glove for a secure fit. It’s easy to be animated and move around with mitt puppets as they stay on your hand.

Bath puppets are water-friendly for bathtime and even pooltime. Some puppets in these sets also have soft terry cloth areas you can suds up and use for washing. These puppets mostly feature aquatic characters, though there are some farm animals or cartoon characters available.

Materials

Hand puppet sets are made of soft materials like plush, polyester, velour, and cotton. Plush and velour are common for animal puppets, whereas polyester is usually used for character clothing. Cotton is most commonly found in the form of yarn for hair, manes, or whiskers.

Cotton and polyester fill are used to stuff the head and limbs of hand puppets. The fill is densely packed enough for the head and certain parts of the body to remain upright. Be aware that hand puppets tend to get hot inside rather quickly. Sweaty hands are common when using hand puppets no matter what the materials.

Themes

Hand puppet sets feature fun characters like animals, mythical beasts, and cartoon people. Popular sets are often themed, such as farm animals, ocean life, or career people. There are also movie- and TV-inspired hand puppet sets that feature Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks characters. These sets are usually more expensive than other hand puppet sets.

EXPERT TIP

Hand puppet sets are great for bringing playtime on vacation. They’re easy to pack and can be used during storytime in the car, on the plane, or while you wait for food at a restaurant.


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

Puppet theaters: Hey! Play! Wooden Tabletop Puppet Theater
If you and your child enjoy creating stories with your hand puppet set, then a puppet theater is a great way to add performance to playtime. We like this one from Hey! Play!, which can be set up on any desk or table. It has curtains, a blackboard, and even a working clock to let you know when it’s showtime.

Child-safe detergents: Dreft Stage 2: Active Baby Hypoallergenic Liquid Laundry Detergent
Hand-wash or machine-wash hand puppet sets with detergent that is nontoxic and safe for children, especially those who are teething and have a propensity to put puppets in their mouths. We like the Dreft Stage 2: Active Baby detergent, which is strong enough to remove stains yet gentle enough to keep plush toys soft after a thorough washing.

Storage containers: Zilpoo 4-Pack Toy Organizer Bins with Lids
Store hand puppets together in a small storage container to keep them clean and free of dust when you’re not using them. This set from Zilpoo includes four 20-quart stacking containers in bright colors. These bins also have transparent lids so you can view the contents easily.

EXPERT TIP

If you’re looking for a unique gift to go along with a children’s book, a hand puppet set will help bring storytime to life with interactive friends.


Staff  | BestReviews

Hand puppet set prices

Hand puppet sets cost between $10 and $50. For budget-friendly hand puppet sets, expect to spend between $10 and $20 for sets with two to five puppets. These include coordinating book and puppet sets, finger puppets, and full-size puppets.

If you’re willing to spend a little bit more for better-quality hand puppets, look for sets that cost between $20 and $30. These puppets often have more distinctive details and are made of softer, plusher materials.

Closer to $50 you’ll find premium hand puppet sets that are often used for school performances. These puppets are noticeably more durable, detailed, and expressive.

Tips

  • Choose a hand puppet set with your child. Let your kids guide you toward the hand puppets they like most. That way, they’ll be engaged with characters they know and enjoy.
  • Keep your hand puppet set near the bookcase. Hand puppets are often used during storytime, so keep them near your child’s bookcase in a basket or toy bin.
  • Try different voices. Change your tone, accent, and inflection to create different characters and personalities for each of the hand puppets in a set.

Other products we considered

If you and your children love sea creatures, take a look at this Melissa & Doug Sea Life Friends Hand Puppet Set. This set of four fun creatures includes a shark, octopus, turtle, and dolphin. These puppets are sized for both children and adults, so you can take turns during playtime. We also love the storybook style of the Little Scholastic This Little Piggy: A Hand-Puppet Board Book Set. Ideal for babies through age two, reading time is fun with the soft board book and finger puppets. Instead of fumbling with individual puppets for character changes, the five piggies are held together in a mitt with the book in its palm. It’s also a packable set that can be tucked away in a baby bag, purse, or carry-on luggage.

As your children learn about new animals, careers, and people in school, use hand puppet sets at home to continue their learning, spark conversation, and help with comprehension.

FAQ

Q. Will hand puppets scare my child?
A.
Hand puppets are usually recognizable characters designed with friendly faces to be as approachable as possible. However, very young children could be intimidated by certain characters, such as puppets whose expressions aren’t a clear smile or open mouth. There are also some children who are afraid of clowns, which is why it’s rare to see clown puppets.


Q. How do I wash a hand puppet set?
A.
It depends on the materials, so be sure to defer to the manufacturer’s care instructions. That said, you can spot clean most hand puppet sets with nontoxic soap or detergent. Certain hand puppets are machine-washable, but letting them hang to dry is best.
 

Q. Why are most finger puppets for ages three and up?
A.
This is due to the smaller size of finger puppets. Generally speaking, the smaller toys are, the older the recommended age. While finger puppets can be safely enjoyed by you and your child, don’t let a child under three play with finger puppets unsupervised as they could be a potential choking hazard.

The team that worked on this review
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Sian
    Sian
    Writer

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