Puppetry is a very ancient form of theatre that is believed to have its roots in many different cultures. Some forms of puppetry are more than 3000 years old! Puppetry has been used through the ages for ritual and religious presentations as well as education and entertainment. Puppet theater appeared all over the world long before human beings could even write and has always shared in a common thread of using inanimate objects to tell powerful animated stories. It’s no wonder children love puppetry! It is one of the best outlets for using their creativity and imagination to tell their own stories!
Making puppets and putting on shows has been a common occurrence in our house over the years. We have experimented with sock puppets, marionettes, paper mâché puppets, finger puppets and hand puppets. Lily has even tried her knack as a ventriloquist putting on a puppet show and using Leo as her “dummy!” Exploring puppetry is not only a great way to get involved with arts and crafts, but also history, culture, music and geography. It is something you can do with kids at any age and take in so many directions depending on their interests.
Puppetry is a powerful medium for pretend play, self-exploration and self-expression.
Some puppet ideas for different ages:
Sock Puppets for all ages:
Making sock puppets is an easy one for kids of all ages. Take an old sock or one that is missing a match and use a glue gun to glue on google eyes or sew on buttons for the eyes or nose and use yarn for hair. Leo also used seashells for his sock puppet’s face in the picture above. Fabric markers could also be used to draw on faces. We make sock puppets often and have a collection of different characters, animals and even dragons with felt wings!
Finger puppets are also another fun one for all ages. Lily was getting creative and decided to make a fun finger puppet show for her one year old sister Vivienne and painted a fun finger family on her hand using face paint and “thinking putty” for the hair. We’ve also had lots of fun making felt finger puppets that fit over our fingers and using knit finger puppets that we bought. If your children are very young, create some finger puppets to go with songs they like – maybe “Old MacDonald had a farm” and create the characters for the song. Or create finger puppets for a story they enjoy, like the “Three Little Pigs,” or “Little Red Riding Hood.”
Popsicle Stick Puppets:
This is another great puppet project for all ages. We have made these a number of different ways. One creative way is to have your child draw their own characters on cardstock, cut them out and then glue them to the popsicle stick. You can also have them cut out animals, scenery or characters from a magazine and then glue them to the popsicle sticks. To make the paper more sturdy we usually Modge Podge the paper, let it dry and then glue it onto the popsicle stick. A nice thing about this idea is that you can create more than just characters. You can also create all types of objects that can be used in the story, like a boat, a truck or a treasure chest.
Paper Mâché Puppets:
We created these puppets maybe four years ago and they have held up amazingly well through a lot of creative play and story telling. This project is more suitable for 5 years and up. You’ll need newspaper, masking tape, toilet paper roll, egg carton (depending on what you decide to make), a soda pop bottle with a long neck, Elmers glue/modge podge or flour to make your paper mâché concoction. To create the puppets, First place the toilet paper roll on the neck of a soda pop bottle. Then make a ball out of newspaper and stick part of it into the neck of your soda pop bottle. This ball will be the head of your puppet. To make our pig we used parts of an egg carton to create the ears and nose and masking taped them on. Once your design is finished you can paper mâché all over it to create a more solid puppet head and secure the neck to the head. After is dries (usually a day in the sun or warm space), paint your puppet head and add hair or other accessories to make your puppet. We then cut out fabric for the body and glued it around the neck of the puppet to use as a place to put your hand when playing. You can sew the fabric together or glue gun it. This is definitely a little more time intensive, but it is something the kids can do with the help of an adult or on their own and they make some really fantastic puppets!
If you’re interested in watching some live puppetry to give you some ideas and inspirations check out the Puppet Show Place Theater. They are offering free online (donations welcome) family friendly puppet shows with some great puppeteers. The Cactushead Puppets are a puppeteer group from our area whose shows the kids and I have enjoyed at the local theater. They are performing The Pied Piper of Hamelin live online on May 31st, 3pm. https://www.puppetshowplace.org/show-and-tell
If you have never before seen a marionette show, I highly recommend the National Marionette Theatre out of Erie, Pennsylvania. The National Marionette Theatre is one of the oldest touring marionette theaters in the country. Currently celebrating their 50th season! We were fortunate to see them perform Beauty and The Beast a couple years ago and it was something the kids and I found amazing. It is a family business and they make all the marionettes and scenery by hand. We were able to meet the puppeteers and get a behind the scenes look at how they do what they do – it was inspiring for us all and a beautiful story of how the family business has been passed down for generations. Here’s a link to the trailer for it, but it seems like they don’t have any virtual online shows. So, when social distancing is over and the theaters open back up – keep an eye out for the National Marionette Theatre in your area – their shows are definitely worth seeing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHUOdklKxj8
Have a Great Time crafting and creating your own Beautiful Stories!