Puppets and Stories: Finger Painting Part 2

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

As a kid, I played with puppets fairly often and generally created strange adaptations of stories I'd been reading at the time. Over the years, I have created a lot more stories, but haven't done much oral storytelling. Recently, though, I introduced my kids to puppets and had to come up with a story for their puppets.

At first, I intended to make a gingerbread puppet and adapt the Gingerbread Man story to include the kids' puppets. Adapting well-known stories like that is a great way to introduce young kids to puppets! However, I didn't want my puppet to get 'eaten' at the end, so we improvised a new story instead about some friends traveling to visit the beach.

If you want to create your own stories, you can use the basic framework below and adapt it to fit almost any theme!

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

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. One person is the narrator and has the main character. Either the narrator or all the kids together can name the main character. The narrator starts the story by introducing the main character: This is Sarah! She likes to build towers. 
  3. The narrator then explains the main character's goal: Sarah has build small tower and tall towers, but today she wants to build a gigantic castle.
  4. Continue the story by having the main character do something that will help them reach their goal: To build a castle, Sarah needs to collect piles and piles of enormous rocks.
  5. As the main character starts on their project, they should meet another puppet (or group of puppets). Oh, look, here's Tom. Hi, Tom! I am gathering a lot of rocks to build a castle. Can you help me?
  6. Decide if the new characters are friendly, neutral, or antagonistic: Tom showed Sarah the way to a huge mountain with heaps of stones, or Tom offered to sell Sarah the stones in his store, or Tom was trying to collect all the stones for his own castle and wouldn't share with Sarah.
  7. If the new puppets are antagonistic, they become an obstacle that keeps the main character from achieving their goal: om took all the stones in the town, and now they don't have enough to build their castle!
  8. If the new puppets are friendly and helpful, 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.
  9. Continue telling how the main character pursues their goal, while gradually introducing all of the puppets and adding 2-3 obstacles. With each obstacle, the main character will need to come up with an idea to solve that problem.
  10. At the end, once the characters solve the obstacles, they can achieve the original goal.

Other suggestions:

  1. Make sure to use hand-motions to show what the puppets are doing. For example, the puppets can wave to each other as they introduce themselves, or bounce up and down as they walk along a road.
  2. Story plots start with a goal. Try coming up with stories for a number of different goals, for example: traveling somewhere, building something, finding something, escaping from something, trying to get to know someone, putting on a party, and even trying to learn something new.
  3. If you can, come up with at least one bad idea and show how that mistake causes further obstacles.
  4. Start using hand-motions with your puppets.
  5. Depending on the kids' ages, a teacher/adult may need to suggest obstacles and ideas. 
creating a puppet

Have you used puppets to teach storytelling? Leave a comment below with the goals you use in your puppet stories! I'd love to hear what you come up with.

See also: