Let’s make puppets! In this art lesson we’ll learn how puppets are made and how they have been used around the world throughout history. Then we’ll create our own easy rod puppets using mixed media.
How to make a puppet art lesson for children
In this art lesson you will:
:: learn about the oldest puppet ever discovered
:: learn about wayang golek shadow puppets from West Java
:: make your own rod puppet character, and perhaps create your own puppet show
Famous art in focus :: Puppets around the world
People have used puppets throughout history for play, to teach skills, and to tell stories.
We use puppets for fun, to share our culture and stories of our ancestors, to teach lessons about every day skills, and to share ideas about good and bad.
Do you play with puppets?
Have you ever seen a puppet show?
What was it about?
The world’s oldest puppet
The oldest puppet ever discovered was found in Brno, in Moravia in the Czech Republic.
It is a puppet of a man, about 20 tall, and is made of mammoth ivory. It has joined arms, so it could be moved to play with.
It was made over 28,000 years ago, which shows us how people have always played with puppets and how important they are to us.
You can see the puppet in the video below.
Wayang golek rod puppets
Wayang golek rod puppets are used in the traditional shadow puppet theatre originating in West Java.
The puppets can be carved from wood, or cut out of leather. Each puppet has a head which can swivel and jointed arms that can be moved by the thin rods they are fastened too.
Wayang golek puppet shows are performed by a puppeteer called a dalang, accompanied by a narrator and percussion musicians (gamelan) and singers.
The puppet theatre combines Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim stories with Javanese folklore.
On the threatre stage good characters, called halus, are always placed on the right, and bad characters, called kasars, are places on the left.
This photograph shows the puppets behind stage. You can see the puppeteer at work.
This photograph shows how the puppets appear the the audience. A strong light behind the puppets projects their shadows on the fabric stage set.
ART PROJECT :: SIMPLE ROD PUPPETS
Let’s take inspiration from the puppets we have looked at and create our own mixed media rod puppets.
:: cone of thick card (you can buy card cones, often called papier mache cones, online (we got ours from eBay) or you can make your own by rolling up thick card)
:: wooden skewers – three per puppet
:: white card
:: sticky tape
:: coloured marker pens or pencils
:: collage material scraps: fabric, tissue paper, gift wrap, felt, yarn, lace, buttons, coloured and patterned paper etc.
:: drinking straws (or small rolls of thin card)
:: craft glue
Begin by cutting out an oval of white card to make your puppets face. You can draw on their eyes, nose and mouth, or you can cut out eyes and a slit for the nose, which allows you to fold back the card a little to make a three-dimensional nose.
Tape the face on to one of your wooden skewers. Cut the tip off the cardboard cone and insert the skewer to place the head on the puppet’s body. Don’t glue or tape the rod in place, as you will want to be able to move your puppets head around.
Use a length of string to make arms, taping them to the back of the cardboard cone with sticky tape.
You can thread two small sections of drinking straw (or rolled-up thin card) onto each string arm, to make an upper and lower section on each arm (see photograph below). This gives the arms more definition and makes their movement more realistic.
Fasten each end of string (the hands) onto a wooden skewer. These skewers are the rods you will use to animate your puppet.
Then give your puppet a character.
Will they be good or bad?
What do you want them to look like?
Use your collage materials to make clothes and accessories.
What kind of hair will they have?
Use your imagination to create a wonderful character.
You might like to create several puppets so they can act together, or collaborate with siblings, friends, and classmates to make a full cast of characters.
You can use your puppet to tell a story. Have a go moving the rods to articulate your puppets arms, and twist the inner rod to move their head.
What story will you tell?
Share your art with the NurtureStore community!
We would love to see the art you create! Share a photograph on Instagram with the hashtag #ideasfromnurturestore and join our community gallery.