Making Puppets with Moving Parts

In this activity, we will explore using brads (brass fasteners) and sticks to make puppets with moving parts. 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, celebrated by many Eastern cultures during this Lunar New Year. Dragons are very fun to make using simple shapes connected, and they’re customizable! We encourage you to think of other creatures (magical and natural) you can make using these same maker techniques. As always, puppets are a great tool for storytelling. Give your creature a story!

This activity guide was inspired by The Carousel King and the Space Mission, written by Leticia Ordaz and illustrated by Yana Porpova. The Carousel King and the Space Mission tells the story of a boy named Maxton who overcomes his fear of the carousel. He dreamed of Luis the Magical Dragon, like the one he rode on the carousel, who encouraged him to be brave so he could be the Carousel King and go on a magical ride. Maxton was then inspired to learn more about carousels so he could build his own on the moon. Luis the Magical Dragon served as a symbol of bravery and inspiration that Maxton carried with him in everything he aimed to build. 

We've added The Carousel King and the Space Mission to the Chill Zone at reDiscover Center. Find this book during your next visit or listen to this read-aloud.

STEP 1 - Gather your Materials

Tools

  • Cardboard Scissors
  • Paper Scissors
  • Awl or Hole Puncher
  • Brads
  • Tape
  • Markers/pens/pencils/something to write with
  • *Optional: Funky edge scissors can add a fun texture

Many of these tools can be found in our Tinkering Toolkit.

Materials

  • Small squares or rectangles of chipboard/paperboard/lightweight cardboard
  • Skewers
  • Colored paper/shiny mylar/stickers/things to decorate your puppet
  • Your imagination

Examples of simple shapes.

STEP 2 - Cut your body shapes and decorate them

Draw 5 -6 shapes on cardboard. Simple shapes work great! We recommend you pick one kind to keep it simple. You can never go wrong with cutting ovals. Cute them out, then decorate them using coloring pens/markers, colored paper, and other recycled materials.

After gathering 5-6 cutouts of the same shape, poke holes on each side of your piece. Poke 1 hole in the head and tail pieces.

STEP 3 - Attach your body segments with the brads.

Connect the holes you've poked into your cardboard pieces using brads.

*PRO-TIP: Fold in the ends of your brads to make them more secure and to protect tiny hands from scratches. You can also cover them with tape to make them invisible on the back.

STEP 4 - Add skewers to control your puppet

If you’re using cardboard, stick the skewers in between the flutes. If you’re using a paperboard, use tape to attach your controls.

Exploring Further

Create other long, flexible, and energetic creatures using this technique!

Scroll through the carousel on the right to explore more possibilities.

Based on Jennifer Racusin's Puppet Activity developed for reDiscover Community Programming in Winter/Spring 2024.

ADULT HELPERS

For any tips on how to use specific tools safely, visit our Youtube library for Tiny Techniques.

RESOURCES

Visit the Techniques tab in reDiscover Center's Pedagogy Resources to access our Tiny Techniques videos and get tips for working safely and efficiently with tools.

Once you have finished your costumes, share it with friends and family. Join a Carnaval parade, go trick or treating on Halloween, or just have a costume party at home! Costumes you make yourself are the best, and you'll feel so proud you made it. When you use scraps and recycled materials, it means no new plastics or materials were taken from natural resources. Great job! If you want to share a picture on social media, be sure to tag @reDiscoverCtr. We'd love to see what you made!

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