When your children make customs toys, it encourages creativity and innovation. Marionettes are a type of puppet that typically moves with strings, making them more fun to play with. Some marionettes are simple, while others are complex and can imitate realistic movements. Choose a project to suit your child's skill level, to ensure your child has fun and doesn't get discouraged.
Cardstock is a heavy paper that is easy to work with for most kids. Find a template online for a paper marionette or let the child draw one on cardstock, then cut out the pieces. You need two arms, two legs, and a torso with the head attached. Poke two holes in the end of each arm and leg, one large hole and one small one above the large hole. Poke a large hole at the shoulders and hips of the torso, and a small hole in the top of the head. Use a paper connector, the kind that has spreadable tines at the back, to attach the arms and legs to the torso, using the large holes. Connect the small holes in the arms with a taut loop of thread, then the small holes in the legs with a separate thread. Tie a string in the middle of the thread connecting the arms, and use the same string to connect the legs. A length of string should dangle at the bottom. When you pull the string, the arms and legs move. Tie a thread in the head of the marionette to hang it.
Use a handkerchief to make a cloth marionette. A handkerchief will save you time because it is already hemmed, but you can also use felt. Fold the cloth in half, then pinch the fabric at either end of the fold and wrap it with a string to form a hand, tying the string at the hand to prevent it from coming off. Pinch the middle of the fold and wrap and knot it the same way with another string. Glue a large wooden bead or a circle from foam or paper to the middle to add a head. Decorate the puppet using markers, glue, fabric pieces, sequins or any other craft supply your child can glue on. Tie a loop at the end of each cord. To operate the puppet, slip a loop over each finger and wiggle your fingers to make the puppet move and bounce.
You can make many different animals from basically the same shape. Turn a paper cup on its side; this will be the body. Poke a toothpick through a small foam ball and into the rim of the closed end of the cup to form a neck. Use more foam balls and toothpicks to form a head, then attach it to the neck with glue or toothpicks. Glue four pieces of heavy string to the bottom of the cup for legs, then glue a small foam ball to the end of each string. Decorate the animal with paint or add more parts, like ears, with glue and construction paper. Glue a piece of fishing line to each foot, the head, and the back of the paper cup. Glue two craft sticks together to make an "X." Tie the head string to the top of one stick and the back string to the bottom of the same stick. Tie the strings for the feet on the left to the end of the other craft stick and the strings for the right to the other, making sure that the strings don't cross. Use the craft sticks to make the marionette move. This method is versatile; try making different kinds of animals or monsters.
If your child wants to make a lot of marionettes, she might be interested in making a stage for them to put on a play. Marionette stages are essentially miniature versions of real stages, and can be elaborate. Make a simple stage using a cardboard box. Turn a small cardboard box, with no flaps, on its side. Glue felt rectangles to the top and sides of the top box to make curtains. Cut a large, rectangular hole in the top, above the stage, to allow puppets to move around inside. Make backgrounds from pieces of colorful construction paper.
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- "Days of Knights and Damsels"; Laurie Carlson; 1998
- "Popular Science"; Constructing Simple Marionette Stages; Florence Fetherston Drake; March 1936
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- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images