Posts Tagged ‘puppet’

paper folding: fortune tellers & envelopes

on a sick day home from school earlier this week, N got on a (pre)origami kick. i went out to see art therapy clients in the morning while she and her dad stayed home and created folded paper fortune tellers (and puppets!) did you create these as a kid? oh, it so brought me back to the 80s when i arrived home midday to see them excitedly playing with their creations.

my husband, craig, created one and N created one herself alongside him. (i wish he had taken photos of this!) the one you see above is one she created and colored. craig wrote the color names on it, N did the numbers inside, and craig made up the fortunes.

i love the fortunes they came up with on the inside, like “you will have magic in your hands” and “you will be surrounded by loving friends” and “you will discover a secret cave with treasure” — among others.

hours of enjoyment, i tell ya!

after N folded another one, she colored a face on it to make a puppet. she noted that “it’s hard to color it when it’s already folded!”

later in the day, N emerged from her room with “envelopes” she had created on her own by folding paper and taping it. this is what i found on my dresser as a gift.

and when i opened it, LOVE inside…

we capped off our paper-folding sick day with making origami bunnies that our friends over at tinkerlab happened to post that same morning my husband initiated paper fortune tellers. i love how the collective unconscious works, don’t you? 😉

making our tinkerlab-inspired bunnies

perhaps we’re ready to try out some other origami animals. i was saving it for an older age, but we’ll see how it goes if the interest is piqued right now… at what age do you think origami is appropriate for kids?


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interview with kelley schoger on puppetry arts

one of my dearest, oldest longest(!), and most talented friends, kelley schoger, is gracious enough to share her wisdom and skills with us today in the realm of puppetry arts with children. grab your cuppa joe and enjoy this inspirational interview with kelley!

kelley with kids performing a puppet show

jen: can you tell us a bit about your background and about the work you’ve done with children and puppetry?

Kelley: I am an actor and teacher. Just after I received my BA in Theatre Arts, I moved to New York City where I lived and worked for nine years. One day, I bumped into an old friend and she told me I needed to contact her puppet-building friend, thus my foray into the world of puppetry. I became a lead puppeteer for four years in the Off Off Broadway production of the jazz children’s puppet show The Adventures of Maya the Bee. As I continued to perform with puppets and witnessed puppet builders conceiving, building, and performing their own shows, I gained such a reverence for this most ancient and creative art form. I then moved to the British Virgin Islands where I was a teaching artist in K-12 schools facilitating hand puppet workshops to children in grades 1-5. Most recently, I designed and taught an Introduction to Puppetry Arts course for BFA theatre students at Virginia Commonwealth University, where I am now a graduate student working on my MFA in theatre pedagogy.

jen: how do you think puppetry helps children to express themselves?

Kelley: Puppetry is a wonderful art form for children because it is interdisciplinary. The skills gained from making and using puppets are many. This is because to engage in puppetry is to engage in the visual AND the performing arts. Puppetry provides an arts experience that affirms the creative potential of each student, augments technical knowledge and ability, inspires imagination, and stimulates the expression of personal vision. Puppetry helps to improve fine motor skills and encourages imaginative role-play and listening. Creating a voice for the puppet aids in speech development and the enrichment of language. There is something about performing through an object that feels safe. Even the shyest child can express him or herself through this character “mask” Puppets were actually the first masks and date back to prehistoric times. Even though the mask/character is physically separate from the child, the puppet is a reflection of its maker, which instills a sense of confidence and accomplishment. Self-expression is found not only in performing with the puppet, but also in each paint color chosen and button glued on to create one’s  completely unique and special character.

jen: can you share your favorite types of puppets that would be appropriate to create with children ages 3-7?

Kelley: I have worked with hand, rod, hand and rod, Japanese Bunraku (manipulated by three puppeteers), marionette and shadow puppets. I have also worked with non-traditional and found object puppets. I find that building and performing with hand puppets is the easiest and most effective for children ages 3-7. With a hand puppet the child uses the arm, wrist, hand and fingers to manipulate the puppet from the inside, like a glove. This gives them the most control. Rod and even hand and rod (like the Muppets) are harder to control due to the rods that are held with the opposite hand outside the body.

Two dimensional shadow puppets are also easy and fun to experiment with. You cut out a shape in profile and fasten movable parts together. Hold them up to a sheet and shine a light from the back and you have a shadow puppet.  The shadow puppets in these photos are simply made with folders from Target and fastened with brads and scotch tape.

jen: how would you suggest making a puppet with a young child?

Kelley: The answer to this is limitless, as anything can be a puppet! I’ll outline two types of puppets that are really great to make with kids: sock puppets & hand puppets.

Sock puppets : great for younger children because they’re soft & easy to make


  • one long sock
  • one thick rubber band
  • art supplies to create the character (wiggly eyes, puff balls, sequins, buttons, paint or fabric markers etc.)
  • glue (preferably a fabric glue)

When putting the sock over the hand – hold the hand with the fingers on top and the thumb on the bottom. The thumb will serve as the jaw. Put the rubber band over the sock between the thumb and top fingers and then stretch over the top around the knuckles. This will create definition for the “mouth”.

The key to manipulating this kind of puppet is use of the wrist. Working with your puppets in front of a mirror is the best way to work on performing with puppets. If you don’t have a puppet stage for performances, use a table as your stage. You can turn it over on its side or you can leave it upright and drape a sheet or blanket over it to hide the puppeteer.

Hand puppets : perfect for grades 1-5


  • 1 Styrofoam ball (3 inch) – for head
  • 1 Styrofoam block (3×3 or larger) – used as a base for puppet drying
  • popsicle sticks for puppet drying (stick in styro base) and for sculpting
  • Celluclay paper mache (natural and safe for kids) to cover Styrofoam ball and to sculpt features like ears, mouth, eyeballs, eyebrows etc.)
  • Tempra paint in colors of your choice
  • Paint brushes (at least two—one fine tip for detail and one larger for overall coverage)
  • Fabric (for body pattern—your choice of color/pattern; must be somewhat thick to maintain shape)
  • Felt (for hands and anything else you want—colors of your choice)
  • Yarn (for hair or anything else you want—color of your choice)
  • Ribbon, buttons and any other decorative items for puppet “costume”
  • Fabric glue
  • Scissors

sculpting hand puppets

In creating this kind of hand puppet and then performing a show with them, children learn about sculpture, painting, design, writing and acting. In terms of building, attach all parts with fabric glue so there is no sewing involved. A paper pattern should be used for body and hands. For younger children, you will need to help with pre-sculpting the styrofoam balls (eye sockets, nose and hole in bottom of head where fingers will go-the best way to make this hole is with a broom end!) and cutting the fabric. Also, when gluing fabric, glue edges inside out and when dry, turn right side out and it will look like the fabric was sewn.

jen: what can parents do to encourage puppet play at home?

Kelley: The best way to introduce your child to the idea of puppetry is to encourage puppet play with puppets you can purchase or by animating stuffed animals. Also, in any city there are usually puppet performances at children’s museums or other venues. The best way to expose children to puppet performance is by attending a live performance. One of the rules of puppet performance is the puppet must interact, or at least address, its audience. Thus puppet theatre is very interactive and engaging for children. In my experience performing children’s puppet shows, we always let the audience come backstage to “meet the puppets”. It is amazing to see the child approach the puppet, tentative and awestruck, as if it were real despite the fact that I was standing right beside it, in full view, making it walk and talk. Magic is intrinsic to puppetry. I love that.

waiting to come to life

jen: is there anything else you’d like to add?

Kelley: For small children, puppet performance is very much about creating a character and playing that role. This involves creating, naming and even performing the voice of the character. Encourage your child to come up with a specific puppet voice for their puppet. For older children, encourage them to find different ways to manipulate the puppet. This involves close observation of movement. If your child has created a lion puppet, encourage them to observe lion behavior and characteristics on the internet and then have them try to recreate it, including movement and sound. Most importantly, “breathing the puppet”, or giving the puppet breath, is the golden rule of puppet manipulation!  The puppeteer exaggerates their breathing so the puppet will move up and down with that breath, giving the illusion of breathing. Lastly, puppet theatre is highly collaborative. When performing a puppet show, the puppeteer/puppet must really take time to listen to other puppet in the scene and then react. Performing puppet theatre is a way to really encourage your children to pause and listen.

Anyone can learn to build and perform with puppets. While I have a lot of experience performing in puppet theatre, I am not an advanced builder. I am definitely more of a performer than a visual artist, but I have managed to improve upon these skills over the years. If I can learn to sculpt, anyone can!

kids enjoying a puppet show

thank you to my amazing friend, kelley, for sharing all of this awesome puppet info with us! now i really want to make some shadow puppets with N!


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