Puppets With No Strings Attached

I had a hole in my glove one winter, and as I waited for yet another pick up after yet another drop off, I got bored. I exposed my thumb and drew a face on it, developed the urge to speak with a Spanish accent, and baptized my new finger puppet Esteban. I tormented my children with Esteban for an entire winter until I finally retired my glove with great reluctance, and took this photo as a memento of his short but splendid life.

Puppets have been around for thousands of years. While they are thought to have originated in India some 4000 years ago, they have popped up in many other cultures. Think Punch and Judy (England), Shadow Puppets (Indonesia), Punchinello (Italy), and The Muppets (United States). Here’s an opportunity to make some popsicle stick puppets and allow their personalities to sprout from your imagination, just as Esteban did from mine.



1. Children should begin by thinking about a story they would like to tell, and who the characters will be. They can give these characters funny names and think about how they will behave. The Little Miss series of books are a great example to give them. These characters have strong personalities, like Little Miss Bossy who runs around giving orders to everyone.

2. Once the characters are established, they can begin making their puppets. Model Magic is very easy to work with, and many other colours can be made by mixing the primary colours together. The garlic press is a great tool for making messy hair. Sometimes, gently folding two colours together can begin to reveal the funniest faces. That’s how I ended up with my two little Indian men, as I call them. They were screaming for turbans, but I opted for Einstein, garlic press hair instead.

3. Once a puppet head is finished, add a bit of white glue to the top of a popsicle stick, and gently press the head on it. Place in the styrofoam base and leave to dry.

Keep in mind that once Model Magic dries, fine pieces break off very easily. I should know, I’ve witnessed the tears. So for everyone’s sanity, handle these puppets with care. A styrofoam base like the one in the photograph, is a great way to store and display the puppets. Remember, you can paint it with tempera to give it a nicer look. And if bits do break off, you can either glue them back on or make new bits.

Look out for my next post which will be about making a table top stage for these puppets.

Websites about puppets:

Puppetry Traditions Around the World

Books about puppets:

The Master Puppeteer (novel)

Puppet Master (novel)

Making Puppets Come Alive: How To Learn and Teach Hand Puppetry

Shadow Puppets and Shadow Play

Strings, Hands, Shadows: a Modern Puppet History

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