Making a Puppet Theatre

From shadow puppets to hand puppets to fully jointed wooden puppets, puppet theatres can provide endless hours of fun for children young and old. Unfortunately, well built puppet theatres can cost a fortune to be custom made, and the cheaper plastic alternatives are obviously aimed towards the youngest players. For an affordable, adaptable puppet theatre the whole family can enjoy, consider making your own!

Long Lasting Design

From the Middle Ages to Punch and Judy, the design of a good puppet theatre has stayed much the same. The simplest design includes a small “playhouse” for the puppeteers, with a large, curtained front “window” from which the audience views the puppets’ antics. At its most basic, then, a puppet theatre can be as simple as a large box with a window!

Even if your carpentry skills leave a little to be desired, you can still create a great puppet theatre using:

  • Large cardboard boxes.
  • Poster board.
  • Corkboards or notice boards grouped together.
  • Room dividers arranged appropriately.
  • Chairs covered in blankets.

Appropriate Decorations

Kids love the ceremony of pulling back the curtains of a puppet theatre to reveal their own settings inside. Be sure to offer your kids this fun by:

  • Investing in some fabric to drape across the front of your children’s puppet theatre.
  • Keeping a store of poster board and crayons handy for scenery changes.
  • Considering an easy-wipe white board for the puppet theatre background.
  • Helping the kids make “advertisements” announcing their latest productions.

Don’t Forget the Puppets

What would be the point of a puppet theatre without puppets?! Many parents find that great ways to create budget puppet productions include:

  • Finger puppets! Let your kids’ imaginations run wild and paint/draw appropriate faces on their fingers and hands.
  • Cardboard finger puppets. Roll cardboard or poster board into a tube small enough to fit snugly on your children’s fingers and draw the desired character on the front.
  • Action figures. Not technically puppets, but many kids find making dolls and action figures perform just as fun.
  • Old stuffed animals. Do not let your kids watch as you snip the legs off of old stuffed animals, get rid of the stuffing and create a puppet for next to nothing.
  • Shadow puppet books.
  • Homemade shadow puppets. Cut cardboard or poster board into appropriate shapes, draw in the characters and attach them to lolly sticks. Viola! A whole new cast.

Help Out With the Script

Sometimes kids like to perform stories they already know – Peter Pan, The Three Little Pigs, etc. – but sometimes they like to make up their own scripts for their puppet theatres. Encourage your kids to let their imaginations run wild coming up with new ideas, and let them know that you are around to:

  • Listen to their ideas.
  • Answer their questions.
  • Help them finish their stories.
  • Write up scripts that they can save for later.

Celebrate Their Productions

Even if it is only you and a row of dolls watching the opening production of your kids’ latest puppet show, be sure to celebrate their achievements. Be an appreciative audience, and offer them a gala celebration of juice and snacks when they have finished their performance and put their materials away safely.