Feb 3, 2008

puppets on a stick

butterfly on a stick

The stick puppet is one of the most simple to make. Even the very young can make their own variations of stick puppets by decorating (with paint, markers, or collage) a card stock or cardboard shape that an adult has cut out. A slightly older child can cut out her own shape. As for the stick? My butterfly is sporting a Chinese take-out chopstick. Other options might include taping a drinking straw or pencil to the back of the puppet.

One of the (many) reasons I've become so enamored with puppets is that they are a high-quality educational toy that can be fashioned entirely from found objects, recycled material, and common household items. Here's how I made this papier mache butterfly puppet:

butterfly puppet cardboard base

Draw a shape onto a piece of cardboard and cut it out. Cover the cardboard entirely in aluminum foil (used foil works fine!) Attach a stick to one side with masking tape.

Prepare your papier mache paste. I use 1 part white flour to 2 parts warm water, which should form a consistency like thick glue. Add more water or flour if needed, and mix to remove the lumps.

Tear newspaper into small strips (the smaller the better for working with figures that have curved edges, such as this one.) Dip each strip into the paste, run it between your index and middle fingers to remove the excess, and place it on the figure. Cover the figure evenly, forming "x"s with the strips, which will give it more tensile strength. Add 4-6 more layers (being sure to let it dry a bit between each layer.)

butterfly on a stick receives a coat of white paint

Let the puppet dry completely for one or two days. Use some sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges, then cover it entirely in a coat of white paint (acrylics or temperas work fine.)

Once the base layer has dried, bring out the rest of the colors and let your imagination take flight! Once dry, cover with a coat of Mod Podge.

Happy puppeteering!


Piseco said...

I love this puppet! Thanks for sharing the idea, and especially the detailed photos & instructions. What a great project. :)

Theresa said...

that is lovely! You're inspiring me to bust out some puppet-making crafty goodness with my boys - seems like sucha perfect winter day activity.

Suzanne said...

Hi Meg! The butterfly came out gorgeous! I just posted the same You Tube clip on my blog--how funny..LOL! My children and I were looking at and learning about the Marionettes that Tasha Tudor made with her children and the shows they used to put on. Perhaps you can get some of her books to share with your students.

Valerie said...

Oh, this is the perfect activity for the kids in my after school program this week. Thank you so much for sharing!

ta said...

Puppets really do freak me out, but the butterfly is just wonderful. I might try it with my son or else save it for when he is a little older. He does have some of the Folkmanis puppets, which he loves. I just wanted to tell you that I love your blog. Especially the pictures from your classroom. We started my son in an infant/toddler Montessori program this summer. Honestly it was the only daycare option I felt comfortable with and he has learned so much. And your patterns are wonderful

Julia said...

i love this puppet! i live really close to an incredible puppet theater (you should check out their website- it's called In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. Last year I went to their annual "May Day Parade", which is a huge puppet parade through South Minneapolis- it was incredible. They get volunteers to help make the puppets and I'm hoping to learn a little this year. Can't wait to see what comes from the rest of your month of puppets.

Bethany Hissong said...

How exciting for your students! This is really cute! My daughter's fifth grade teacher did Bunraku puppets with them this year and they are writing plays and filming their skits! I found that gesso is a good medium to cover the papier mache with... you can sand it and it provides a matte finish for painting over. I look forward to your posts!!!

Annie said...

How wonderful! We (my 3 and 2 year-olds and I) will definitely try this out. I just discovered your blog--thank you!

guam_mummy said...

Meg I love this puppet and your detailed easy to follow instructions. My little one will love the gluing part ......Thanks for your generosity

Anna said...

This is a great project. Thank you. And yours turned out beautiful. Oh, I just ordered your adorable apron pattern last week, and then I saw it mentioned on today! Well done you!

Berlinswhimsy said...

Oh, I love these! They look simple to make but I'm sure they elicit lots of imaginative play and joy, too.

I agree with you on puppets. They are are an amazing way to propel children into their imaginations. My kids & I used to go to a puppet theater here in the city that held the most amazing puppet shows each season (it's called Tears of Joy Theater in Portland, OR). It is more like an artistic play but with puppets. Ever since our years of going to those, I've been amazed with puppets' potential for children.

Anonymous said...

that's awesome. thank you.

Susan said...

Beautiful puppet!
I will not be checking your blog daily because I have this THING about puppets. If I hadn't been forced to learn a practical profesison (like teaching!) I may have become a puppeteer!
Great topic!

Snippety Gibbet said...

I'm an elementary art teacher in Virginia. I'm really enjoying reading your blog.

kat said...

what a sweet butterfly! if you're looking for puppet ideas, you must see ones my friend creates: http://phaedra-phoenix.blogspot.com/
they are waldorf dolls, but the skirts are hollow to use them as puppets for story-telling.

melissa said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I love your cheerful little butterfly!

Susana Molinolo said...


becky said...

OK, question: why cover the cardboard with foil? I'm wondering if it adds stability, or if it's so things don't get too soggy?

M. Demiguel said...

hello meg. a friend just introduced me to your blog and i find your projects and insights very beautiful. like you, I teach abroad at a montessori school. i'd like to try the puppet craft with my class. do they sell mod podge around the globe or do you cart it with you? what is it?

have a lovely day! melissa

Meg McElwee said...

M. Demiguel - No, they don't sell mod podge here in rural Mexico. If you can't find it, you can just as easily substitute clear drying glue, such as Elmer's. It will provide the same glossy finish.

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