DIY hand puppets and paper dolls

Children like when we add a visual presentation to the story we narrate. If we talk about young children, a simple performance accompanied by a gentle mother`s voice brings great pleasure to them. It is not necessary to be a fancy piece of art with a complex scenario. But, it does not mean we don`t need to prepare. We need to have all the sequences of the story in our mind and all props at hand. And, we need to open our hearts so that story flows smoothly to the heart of a child… because the connection that we make with the child through storytelling is the essential element of this performance.

I usually make the puppets and props to go along with my stories, and try to keep it simple. The most simple props that anyone can make are the puppets made of paper. I make them as follows: I draw the images, color them, or give to the children to color, cut them, and stick them on cardboard. Then I glue a tin bamboo stick on the back of a puppet, like a holder. Sometimes I draw a background on a big piece of paper as well. All my drawings are super simple, and children like them. They are easy to handle – you can hold them in front of the prepared background, or just in front of your lap.

If drawing is not your favorite activity, you can always download and print some coloring pages from the internet and follow the same process of cutting, coloring and gluing images on the cardboard.

Our paper dolls for the story of Jagai and Madhai, Nimai and the puppy, Lord Varahadeva, Ramayana

The same puppets you can use for the shadow theatre as well. For the shadow theatre, you need to glue a very tin white paper (or cloth) on the cardboard frame that will work as a stage set upright. Then, you need to direct a source of light, like the table lamp, on the stage from the backside and move the puppets from there. You can find some interesting ideas and instructions for setting up the shadow puppet stage here

Even though the paper puppets are easy to make and so practical, I have always wanted to have more professional puppets for our home theatre, like those that we have seen in the local library puppet show. They are made of cloth and have moving hands, and they are known as hand puppets. I do not sew with the sewing machine, and all the sewing projects take me sooo long time to accomplish by hand. But, I did one set of puppets for Nrisimha Caturdashi festival, and we had a beautiful puppet show with them.
For the body, I cut out pieces of cloth in the shape of an open hand and stitch two of them to make a big glove (with the tumb on both sides). For the head, I used pieces of felt and cut out shapes of head, hair, eyes, mouth, and mane for Lord Nrisimhadeva, and stick them together with glue. Then, I stitched the head near the top of the glove, so that it could stand straight when you hold the glove in the hand. This is again a simplified method of making the head for the doll in two-dimensional form, not in three dimensions like it should be (making a ball with a cloth, stitch hair and face details on it, etc). It was my little improvisation and it worked well for my kids. I like to work with felt, it is a great material and easy for crafting simple props and finger puppets for kids as well (I have made quite a few animal finger puppets with it).

In my previous article, I wrote about how I made Krishna conscious puppets out of peg dolls, you can read it here DIY dolls and puppets for Krishna conscious play

Please feel free to write in the comment if you have any creative idea on how to make puppets or dolls for children to enrich their experience of Krishna conscious happy childhood. I would like to hear about it!

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