Stage a Puppet Show

There are all kinds of puppets: marionettes on strings, hand puppets that fit like a glove, and tiny finger puppets. They can be made with so many things: paper plates, index cards, straws and yarn, and even old socks! Puppets have been around for ages throughout the world. Read on to learn more about the world of puppets and how to make your own.

Puppets in History

Puppets have been crowd pleasers since at least the time of the ancient Greeks. Later on, an old medieval manuscript shows children playing with stringed puppets-- knights in armor with swords, facing off just like Rock'em Sock'em Robots.

A European puppet show would usually be set up at a fair or market square, anywhere that people would naturally get together. The scripts might be written just to be a good, funny story, or they might have a more serious intent to poke fun at the people in charge of the community. Both ordinary people and kings' advisors enjoyed watching puppet shows.

Puppet Masters Around the World

The Japanese Bunraku puppets have such lifelike movements that people forget that the puppeteers are in plain sight. The Vietnamese tradition specializes in water puppets. The puppeteers stand chest deep in the water and move their puppets just above the surface. They act out scenes from everyday life. The islands of Indonesia are famous for their shadow puppets whose stories of gods and heroes have a strong spiritual connection to the community.

For hundreds of years, Punch and Judy shows have entertained crowds in Britain and America. Today, the creators of the Sesame Street and Winnie-the-Pooh television shows let their puppets capture the imaginations of a whole new generation of kids and parents.

Puppets Helping People

Sometimes it's easier to learn something new and maybe a little bit scary from a puppet show. Kids on the Block, a puppet theatre that has shows all across the country, goes to schools to teach children how to make friends with kids who are different. Unicef's Puppets with a Purpose looks at ways puppets work to break down prejudice in South Africa, teach about the importance of immunizations in Iran, and give a way for teenagers to make money and express themselves creatively in Vietnam.

Puppet making is a lot of fun. The books and Web sites listed below can help you get started. Almost anyone is old enough to make a puppet, and kids who are too little to make one will surely think it's wonderful to watch a puppet perform. Once you have made some puppets, try putting on a show for your friends and family!

In the Library
Clown marionetteClick on the titles to go to the catalog and request any of these books.

Fantastic Theater: Puppets and Plays For Young Performers and Young Audiences by Judy Sierra.
Thirty puppet plays adapted from nursery rhymes, folk songs, fables, poetry, folktales, and myths with instructional chapters on making and using rod and shadow puppets and puppet stages.

Finger Folk by Marilyn Lohnes.
Small children love finger plays and older ones love telling stories! Finger Folk has patterns for lots of simple puppets to use as part of a storytime for young children as well as program ideas for parents and teachers.

The Grolier Kidscrafts Puppet Book by Lyn Orton.
Cute puppets to make with glue and paper or simple sewing skills. Look for spooky spiders, a talking fox, a spring chick or woodland fairies. These designs are not for the youngest children.

I Can Make Puppets by Mary Wallace
Young kids can make a dragon, a wizard, a pig, a pony and finger puppets out of easy-to-find materials.

Make Your Own Performing Puppets by Teddy Cameron Long.
More than nine set-ups for puppet shows. Step-by-step instructions to create your own circus of marionettes, a hand puppet theater of knights and a dragon, a shadow box theater and puppetry ideas as simple as a rain forest of painted hands against a paper backdrop. Includes designs for tickets and poster. Bring your own script!

Puppet Shows Made Easy by Nancy Renfro.
For older kids and their grownups, this book has step-by-step directions for choosing stories, writing scripts, making puppets and props, and tips on performance.

Puppets for Dreaming and Scheming: A Puppet Source Book by Judy Sims.
More than 80 ideas for puppet projects, props, and stages. Includes sock puppets, glove puppets, shadow puppets, finger and stick puppets.

Puppets, Methods and Materials by Cedric Flower & Alan Jon Fortney.
A book for teens or younger kids with adult help. It includes some examples of paper bag puppets and other hand puppets, but this book is most interesting for its photos and discussion of professional quality puppetry methods.

On the Web

All About Puppets at
Many kinds of puppets to try made with paper plates, juice cans, wooden spoons, corn husks, and even apples, cookies, and lollipops. Includes tips and techniques and links to free scripts.

Creating Puppet Theater at Home
"This article has some fun, creative ideas for making your own puppet show at home."
Recommended by the students at Pinewood Elementary.

Puppets and Marionettes from KinderCrafts
"These crafts projects are for preschool, kindergarten and elementary school children. The crafts use materials found around the house, like egg cartons, cardboard, paper, boxes, string, crayons, paint, glue, etc."

The World of Puppets
Learn about puppet styles around the world: Japan's Bunraku theater, Vietnam's water puppetry, and Indonesian shadow puppetry.