As all theatres around London have temporarily closed in lockdown, why not bring the magic of the theatre to you and your little ones instead?
Not only is it a super fun activity to get the whole family involved in but it’s a great DIY project and something to treasure long after the days of lockdown! Whether you’ve got budding stage technicians, puppeteers or enjoy a great afternoon out at the theatre, making and hosting your own puppet show allows you and your little ones to entertain and be entertained!
Let your children’s imagination run wild as the possibilities for storylines and characters are truly endless - one day you could be watching a show about singing dinosaurs, the next a family who live on the moon - who knows! Follow our top tips down below and you’ll be all set to put on a really good show. Plus, if you want to know where to get the best arts and crafts supplies, check out our blog here.
Creating Your Own DIY Puppet Theatre
We recognise that it’s quite unlikely to have a puppet theatre lying around the house so we’ve come up with a super simple set of instructions to make your very own. It doesn’t take very long at all so you’ll be ready for curtain up in no time, plus the whole family can get involved! If your kids are super into all things artsy, you might want to check out our top picks for online interactive art events here.
You’ll need: a cardboard box (preferably a big one), scissors, coloured card, paint or pens to decorate
- Grab your cardboard box and draw a rectangle on the front of the box, nearer the top to form the stage for your puppets.
- Then with a grown-up's help, cut the rectangle out using scissors or a sharp knife to form a window where your show will take place. Then with a pair of scissors, cut out the back of the box, parallel to the rectangle you’ve just made, leaving a small part at the bottom to form a handy tray to store all of your puppets and props, plus this also provides more structure to your puppet theatre.
- Now for the fun part - get decorating! You might notice that at this stage your puppet theatre is looking more cardboard than West End theatre so now’s the time to get truly creative. You might want to use coloured card to stick on top of the cardboard to make it a little more colourful, or perhaps you’re feeling super inventive and want to use paints to mimic a more old-fashioned, traditional puppet theatre with red and yellow stripes!
Maybe you want to use pom-poms to create heads of audience members or ribbon to create the fringing of the traditional theatres - however you want to decorate your puppet theatre be sure to send us a picture or tag us on Instagram using the handle @kidadl - we would love to see!
- Well, no puppet show is complete without props! Whether you want to make sausages for the traditional story of Punch and Judy or perhaps a glass slipper for Cinderella, we recommend sketching the props on cardboard and then cutting them out and decorating however you wish.
Creating Your Own Puppets
What’s a puppet show without puppets? Check out our top 3 ways to make your very own puppets down below and then you’ll almost be ready to host your puppet show!
1) Paper Mache Puppets
You’ll need: sticks, kitchen roll, scissors, foil, PVA glue, water, a bowl to hold the mixture and paint
- First, rummage around in your garden or an outside area (whilst social distancing of course) and look for sticks, around the length of a pencil, to use as the body for your puppets.
- After you’ve got your stick(s), wrap a ball of foil around the top end of the stick, forming the head of the puppet.
- Now it’s time to get paper mache-ing! You might want to wear an apron for this bit as it can get a little sticky. Firstly, make up a mixture, using equal cups of glue and water and pour into a bowl. Then cut your kitchen roll into equal strips around 2cm in width. Once you’ve got all your strips, taking one at a time, dip them in the mixture and begin tightly wrapping the head, ensuring to smooth the strips around the foil. You might even want to wrap some strips down onto the stick to hold the head in place. Plus, make sure to add a dry strip once in a while to soak up any excess glue.
- Then set your puppets aside to dry for a few days before painting them according to what characters you want them to be!
- If you’re feeling super creative, you might want to wrap some fabric around the stick to really add to the puppet’s look!
2) Sewn Hand Puppets
You’ll need: fabric, a sewing kit and a fabric marker or Sharpie
- The first thing you’ll need to make your very own sewn hand puppets is the fabric of course! Whether you use an old pillowcase, a tee-shirt or if you have some old curtain fabric lying around, ensure that it is big enough to fit around your hand multiple times and you’re all set.
- Next, you need to make your template. For this, place your hand palm down on your piece of fabric. Then draw around the width of your hand leaving around 3cm of fabric above your fingers and go around your thumb, creating a separate section for you to place your thumb so you can control the puppet - think of the shape almost like an oven mitt!
- Then place the piece of fabric that you’ve drawn on top of another piece of fabric and ensure that they are lined up well.
- Then cut the template out on both pieces of fabric ensuring that you are following the marker pen - you should end up with two hand cutouts!
- Finally, you’re ready to get sewing! Sew the two pieces of fabric together making sure to leave a hole at the bottom for your hand.Then decorate as you wish! You could add googly eyes or even make your puppet some clothes out of fabric scraps if you’re feeling super creative!
3) Sock Puppets
You’ll need: a sock, marker, card, pens and decorating materials
- Firstly head up to your sock drawer and rummage around for a clean sock - remember, if you’re looking to make a specific character, keep the colour of the sock in mind. Plus, we wouldn’t recommend using a black sock given that it’ll be difficult to see anything drawn on the sock.
- Next figure out the space for the puppet’s face - slip your hand in the sock, using your thumb to form the lower jaw and your fingers to form the face and upper jaw. This will help you block out where to put the eyes, hair etc.
- Then depending on your creative preferences, you could draw the face on with a coloured marker or get super inventive and use beads for eyes, glitter for hair and maybe even felt for a moustache - it’s really up to you!
- Of course, every sock puppet needs a mouth! Place your hand in the sock puppet and figure out where the mouth would be given the dimensions of your hand, then it’s as simple as getting a marker pen and drawing on the mouth!
How To Host Your Very Own Puppet Show
- Get dressed up! During lockdown, most of us are living in our pyjamas and there’s no shame in that. But it might be nice to get dressed up for this night at the theatre - don your fancy dresses and shirts and don’t forget the snacks!
- Don’t forget your tickets! How can one attend a puppet show with no ticket? This is a great opportunity to get your children involved and let their imaginations run wild as they create the tickets for the show. Make sure to include when, where and what time the show is and what seat number the guest is - hand them out and be sure to collect before curtain up!
- Create programmes for your puppet shows! Like every good West End production, your puppet show simply won’t be complete without a programme. That way, everyone’s hard work can be truly appreciated as their names are listed in lights in the programme. Not only is making your own programmes super fun but it also encourages creativity amongst kids as they invent their own advertisements, upcoming shows and more! Plus, it’s a lovely memento to have to look back on once lockdown is over.
At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things, that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.
We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it's important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.
Kidadl provides inspiration for everything from family days out to online classes, arts, crafts and science experiments. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.
Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.
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