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It's Puppet Time!
Making a Lap-stage puppet theater
Young children love puppet shows and a lap stage is a great way to introduce toddlers and small children to puppetry.
Sometimes babies and toddlers are afraid of puppets until they realize what fun they are to watch and interact with. A lap stage will ensure that someone they know and love is visible to introduce them to these little characters who can talk and do all kinds of amusing things.
Puppets are wonderful educational aids. Use them to teach basic skills such as numbers, colors, the days of the week, nursery rhymes, or please and thank you.
Making the lap stage
Find a cardboard box that will sit comfortably on your lap. Too big and it may tip to the side. Too small and the puppet characters will not have enough space to move around. Try to find as plain a box as possible. Too much lettering may interfere with your design. Fortunately, I found a plain white one for my project.
Cut off the top and part of the bottom using scissors or a box cutter .
Decorate your lap stage
I chose to use polka dots for my lap stage. I made various size circles by drawing around glasses of different sizes. I made my dots out of colored origami paper, but you can use construction paper, gift wrap, or any colored paper. Use tape to reinforce the inside of your box if necessary. That's it. Now you are ready to do a show!
What to do with your lap stage?
If you have ever picked up a doll or toy and pretended it was talking to a child, you have the skills to be a puppeteer. I will provide a short scenario to practice with, but you can create your own.
The following is a tried and true skit and has worked well with babies and toddlers at birthday parties, story time and play groups.
Choose a puppet to be your main character. It could be a clown, an animal, a boy or a girl, an elf - whatever you like. Keep your puppets inside the box stage on your lap where you can easily reach them. Put your main character on your hand and let him pop up and introduce himself or herself to the audience. Don't worry about your lips moving. Small children will be totally focused on the puppet and will not notice that it is you doing the talking.
Your character explains the the children that he is learning to do magic tricks and asks if they would like to see one. Of course they would! He then says he would like to make something appear. It could be a bunny rabbit, or a princess, or a lovely flower. You choose. The puppet thinks of a magic word to use (perhaps abracadabra) then says the magic word, but oops, something else appears like a frog, a spider or a lion.
"Oh, no," says the puppet, "That's not what I wanted. I must have used the wrong magic word. Would you please tell him to go away?"
The kids love telling the unwelcome guest to go away and, of course, he immediately disappears behind the lap stage.
The puppet then thinks of a new magic word, maybe Hocus Pocus. He then tries that one with unsuccessful results. By now the children have gotten the idea of the show and they tell him to go away in no uncertain terms. Next, another magic word with the same results. After about three of four tries, he enlists the children's help. "I'm not doing very well. I think I need some help. Will you help me, boys and girls? Of course they will!
They choose a new magic word to all say together. "Please" works well and it also reinforces good manners and team work.
On the count of three, everyone says it together as loudly as possible and this time, it works. A cute bunny, or whatever you have chosen pops up from behind the stage and your small puppet magician is very excited to finally be successful and very grateful to the children for their help. He says a grateful thank you and tells them he couldn't have done it without them.
The puppet then says goodbye and the children will probably ask you to "do it again".
Now it's Your Turn
Have fun with it
The possibilities are endless with this activity. Try teaching nursery rhymes. I like Little Miss Muffet because of the opportunity for comedy. When the spider appears, she screams and hides behind the stage. If you do this after the magic show skit, the children will usually tell the spider to go away. She comes out and asks if the spider is gone, then proceeds to tell the kids that she is very scared of spiders. While she is talking, the spider appears again, but at first she doesn't see him, causing the children to alert her to the situation. when she finally sees the spider, she screams and disappears again. You can do this any number of times until finally you do need to end it somehow. My ending goes like this:
Miss Muffet says she's tired of this spider and she is going home. She says goodbye, goes off to the right or left and disappears behind the stage. A moment later the spider appears and goes off in the same direction, giving the idea that he has followed Miss Muffet home.
Image from picure-book.com (Google Images)
Along Came a Spider... - Spider puppet
Do a Halloween Puppet Show starring the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or "Little Miss Muffet's Spider"
Props add to the fun
You may want to add a prop such as a tree to indicate a yard or forest, or a house for the three little pigs. Visuals add color and a sense of place to a puppet show skit. If you need a character you don't own, you can make a stick puppet out of cardboard and tape it to a popsicle stick.
To attach a prop to your lap stage, glue a clothes pin on to the back of the prop and pin it of the top of the stage. ( See the tree in the photo).
Try a Holiday Show!
If you are having a holiday party for your young child, a little puppet entertainment really makes it special.
Check out the dollar store around holiday time. There are often economical holiday theme puppets you can buy for practically nothing. You can quite easily convert a santa or elf doll to a puppet by making an opening for your hand and removing some of the stuffing.
Here's a funny interactive skit I call "Wake up, Santa!"
Santa Claus is so tired because he's been working very hard all year making toys, that he falls asleep on Christmas Eve right before hs sleigh trip around the world. Oh, no! What is Mrs. Santa to do?
She asks Rudolph to try to wake him up to no avail. Santa just keeps on snoring away. (Kids love snoring sounds) She then asks the polar bear, the rooster, the dog and other characters to wake him up, but Santa just won't wake up. Finally, she gets the idea to ask the children to help, because Santa always hears the children. On the count of three, everyone says "Wake Up, Santa!" And, naturally, Santa wakes up and the kids have saved the day.
Hint: Since you only have two hands and will have three puppets onstage at one time, drape Santa over the top of the stage, so he can be seen, but you don't have to have him on one of your hands. At the end, make sure only Mrs. Santa is onstage, then slip your hand into Santa and up he gets. I'm sure you will find this is a very popular little show.
So have fun with it and please write and let me know what you did with your lap stage.
Sites with Great Puppetry Ideas
Here are some great sites that have ideas for puppet shows, building puppet stages and puppets, etc.
This site has a wonderful Parade Alien skit that's easy to do and very cute. It also has instructions for building a puppet stage out of an appliance box.
At Activity TV you can find lots of activities for kids with video instructions and printables. It has crafts, Magic, Puppets, Science, and more! Check it out.
Puppets from recycled materials.
Cardboard box puppet theater.
3. Disney Family Fun
Clothesline Theater, Photo Finger Puppets
4. Scruffy Plume
Free puppet patterns, including wooden spoon puppets, pipe cleaner pop-up puppets, glove puppets.