Keeping the kids busy during pandemic lockdowns has been an exhausting challenge for many parents, especially if they’re also working eight hours a day from home. These tips on how to build a puppet theatre for your kids will help entertain them through the long winter indoors.
Imagination is a powerful form of entertainment. Kids cooped up at home need some downtime away from online school and social media to relax and recharge. A homemade puppet theater is an ideal way to encourage storytelling play. Kids can retell classic fairy tales, or improvise their own stories if provided with the right setting. Here are some tips on how to build a puppet theatre for your kids.
You can vary colors, materials, size, and shape as you see fit. Create a tabletop or a free-standing theater your kids can stand behind depending on the size box or presentation board you have available. Materials include:
- Large cardboard box or foldable foam presentation board
- Dowel or rope a few inches longer than the width of the front of the box
- Two old pillowcases or fabric scraps to make curtains
- Old socks missing mates, felt, craft “eyes,” popsicle sticks, and glue to make puppets
- Box cutter or xacto knife
- Six small magnets or a roll of double-sided tape
Select a cardboard box or foam presentation board that will stand three-sided on its own. Depending on the size, you can create a tabletop or stand-up puppet theater for your kids to enjoy.
Cut the Proscenium
Start by marking where you’ll cut the opening for the “stage.” Be sure the opening is lower than the tops of the “wings” that support the box on either side. This way, you’ll have a way to attach a rope or dowel through the sides to hold a curtain across the opening. If creating a tabletop theater, keep the bottom of the box as the stage floor.
Create the Wings
The easiest way to make a puppet theater for your kids from a box or foam presentation board is to select one that has a wide center panel, and two sides that will fold back slightly to hold the box or board standing up. A tabletop version will simply stand on its own, with a cut for the proscenium in front and a cut in back for the kids to reach through to present their puppets.
After you’ve cut the opening for the front of your theater, cut small holes in either “wing” to hold a rope or a dowel for the curtains. Cut a slit in the sides of two old pillowcases to form a rod pocket, and run the dowel or the rope through for the curtains. Then place the ends of the dowel or rope through the holes in the “wings” from behind the proscenium opening. If using a rope, tie the ends tightly outside the openings.
Create different scenes by measuring cardboard to the width of the proscenium opening. You can make forests, ocean waves, or fantasy candy lands. Involve the kids in deciding what scenery their stories will need.
Color your scenery with markers or paint, or use torn pieces of colored tissue paper to create your ocean or forest environments, castles, mountains, or whatever other scenes your kids imagine. The idea is to create changeable scenes that attach to the bottom inside of the proscenium with magnets or double-sided tape, that can be switched out quickly with other scenes for different stories or parts of stories. If you make your scenery as a “frame” for the proscenium, you’ll need to attach it at the top inside of the opening as well as the bottom and sides.
Table-top versions can use the back inside of the box as support for scenery, and cuts on the sides for the puppets to enter and exit.
Decorate the Front
Use non-toxic acrylic paint to decorate your theater. You can create a theme, such as an ornate royal palace theater, a circus tent, or a music shell. Cut additional pieces of cardboard to create moldings or arches on the front of your theater. These add weight to the theater. If your decorations unbalance the theater, brace the sides to the front on the inside by stapling L-shaped strips of corrugated cardboard, the kind that protects the edges of furniture delivered in a box, between the inside of the sides and front of the theater.
Here’s where your kid’s imagination can really take off. Using socks that have lost their mates, glue on craft store eyes, and cut pieces of felt for ears and noses. Use yarn for hair, and more felt for clothing. You can use markers to draw faces and outfits on white socks, or sew fabric on for creative outfits.
Other ways to make puppets include popsicle stick puppets. Apply stickers of your kids’ favorite animated characters to thin craft store foam. Then glue them to the ends of popsicle sticks. Kids can manipulate the stick puppets from behind and underneath the curtains.
If you want a puppet theater for your kids that will last years, make it from wood. Using ¼ inch thick boards, cut the four sides of the proscenium. Make triangular supports from 1 inch thick wood pieces. Use an industrial staple gun to attach your supports to the back of your proscenium to make it stand up straight.
You can use decorative wood trim on the front of your wood theater. Paint the front and moldings first, using bright color for the frame, and accenting the molding with gold for a truly theatrical effect. Then use a brad staple gun that applies small nails with very small heads to be less visible. You can cover any nails that show with a bit of putty and paint.
Staple Headquarters has a large range of staplers for all of your DIY and professional needs. You’ll find framing staplers for your kids’ artworks, electric and pneumatic nail guns for construction work, hammer staplers for roofing felt and cladding, and specialty staplers for closing cartons. Contact Staple Headquarters to select the right tool for your project.