Puppets and Stories: Finger Painting Part 2

getting ready to finger paintPreschool art series, continued...

As a kid, I played with puppets a lot and came up with a fair number of wacky stories in the process. Since then, I have created a lot more stories, but have done very little oral storytelling. As a result, introducing my kids to puppets has been fun--and stretching.

The first part, creating a puppet, is super easy:

    other materials
  1. Start with a paper lunch bag.
  2. Decorate it! You can just use paint, or you can add other materials--glue on feathers, clothes with markers, or glue paper arms onto the bag.
  3. Use triangles or semi-circles to add ears, and ovals to add arms.
  4. Add a face: eyes and a mouth. We used white paint on top of the other paint to create our puppets' faces: one thumbprint per eye, and a curvy line underneath for the mouth. You could also cut out paper shapes, and add more details too.

(Preschool art tip: if you are working with 2-3 year-olds, you may need to cut out the shapes and show them where to place the ears, eyes, etc. With 4-5 year-olds, you might suggest they cut out a triangle for an ear, or a circle for an eye, etc.)

The puppets can be as simple or crazy as you like. One of my kids made a puppet once decorated entirely with blue feathers and googly eyes. One smeared out the face after we painted it on, so that puppet is faceless.

The fun part (for me, at least) is creating a story for the puppets.

smeary puppet
Note: when I originally came up with this idea, I intended to make a gingerbread man, and adapt the story to include the kids' puppets. If that sounds fun, try it out! I decided, however, that I didn't want my puppet to get eaten, so we improved a new story instead.

Here's a few simple steps to create a story:

    finished puppet
  1. Each person should have a puppet--and should (preferably) name their puppet themselves.
  2. As narrator, you have the main character. You can let the kids name the puppet for you, if you want. Start the story by saying who your puppet is. 
  3. Tell the kids what your puppet's goal is: building a giant castle.
  4. Pick a second puppet to be a friend/sidekick.
  5. Start using hand-motions with your puppets. For example, the puppets can wave to each other as they introduce themselves, or bounce up and down as they walk along a road.
  6. Have the puppets start on their goal: they need to collect lots of rocks to build the castle.
  7. Introduce another of the puppets: oh, look, here's Tom! Hi, Tom! We are looking for a lot of rocks to build our castle. Can you help us?
  8. Decide if the new character is friendly, neutral, or antagonistic: Tom showed them the way to a huge mountain with heaps of stones, or Tom offered to sell them the stones in his store, or Tom was trying to collect all the stones for his own castle.
  9. Use dialogue between the puppets to tell as much of the story as you can. Try to get the kids to respond with their own puppet's dialogue if you can.
  10. Add an obstacle: after traveling a long way, they found the stones, but still needed a cart to haul them back again! Or, Tom had dozens and dozens of stones, but they didn't have enough money to buy the stones. Or, Tom took all the stones in the town, and now they don't have enough to build their castle!
  11. Continue building the story this way, using all of the puppets and adding 2-3 obstacles to keep the main character from reaching his goal.
  12. If you can, make the obstacles a result of the characters' previous actions. For example, after Tom took all the stones, they decided to knock his wall down...but one of the stones hits (main character) and hurts his leg!
  13. Bonus points: get the kids to suggest actions and obstacles for their characters along the way.
  14. Once the characters solve the obstacles, have them achieve the original goal.
  15. The end! Yay! 
creating a puppet

What do you think? Have you done storytelling with puppets before?

See also: