How to Make Puppets

Play is an important part of every child's life, but there are times when kids just run out of ideas, coming to their mother or father to utter that well-known lament, "There's nothing to do." When this happens on a rainy day, or at tax time or several days into an illness-caused school absence, patience can sometimes wear thin, but the answer is to come up with something new and different...something, ideally, that is open-ended enough to provide hours of imaginative play.

Luckily, there's a solution right at hand: Puppets. Puppets can be friends to converse with, or they can act out elaborate fantasies. They can perform tricks, sing or take part in improvised adventures. They can be made at little or no cost, and the enjoyment they provide far outweighs the small amount of effort they require to prepare. Best of all, they are a rich food for the young imagination.

The quickest puppets to make are finger puppets. The simplest version of all involves doing nothing more than drawing a face on one or more small fingertips. Children have an almost intuitive grasp of how to play with puppets and will usually start right in by having two decorated fingers "talk" to each other by bobbing first one finger, then the other as they provide a simple conversation: "Hi, how are you?" "I'm okay, how are you today?" At most, a parent can offer a few simple suggestions, like, "Why don't you have them take a trip to see Grandma, and have them talk about what they see on the way?" Once they get going, most kids will find roles for the finger puppets to play until the ink wears off.

An easy-to-make puppet theater can be constructed in a minute or two from an empty cereal or cracker box. Cut a hole for the stage, glue on some colored construction paper for decoration, and it's all set. The hand bearing the decorated fingers is inserted into the box until the fingertips appear in the opening. Incidentally, the stage works both ways: if the opening faces away from the child it can be used to perform for an audience; if it faces the child, it is a perfect toy for self-entertainment-perhaps by a child too sick to get out of bed for other amusements.

This stage can also be used with other puppets. The next easiest puppets to make are stick puppets. Have your child draw faces or animal heads on a piece of paper (if she or he has any difficulty, have them first draw a circle around a quarter as a guide), then cut the characters out and glue them to the end of a pencil or popsicle stick. Scraps of cloth or yarn can be glued to the stick to simulate clothing. Two hands can be inserted into the box, each with a puppet. More elaborate plays are possible, since one character can leave to be replaced by another.

For even more fun, cut out photographs of the child and his or her siblings or friends, and glue those on popsicle sticks. The novelty of having real, recognizable people as puppets will provoke long intervals of truly creative playtime. Photographs are usually stiff enough to stand alone on their sticks; you can do the same thing with photographs cut from magazines, but they may need to be mounted on cardstock first by using a gluestick.

Providing a little fun for a bored child is a noble enough purpose in itself. Introducing something like puppetry that makes the fun open-ended by involving the imagination is even better, and a lot more enjoyable (dare we say it?) than turning on the television.

Article provided by Homesteader

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