Playing with Shadow Puppets

I'll admit it, my job is the best. I play with art materials all the time for publication and then I get to take a break and share creative fun with kids in our community. This week our One World, Many Stories theme inspired my Bali Shadow puppet workshop. This ancient art has been practiced for centuries, as a way to honor religious beliefs and share folklore stories.

We didn't use the traditional materials of hide and bamboo rods, instead each child was given a quarter sheet of black poster board. We also passed out two to three dowel rods that were 1/8" in diameter and cut to twelve inch lengths. We had hole punches, brad fasteners and clear packing tape on hand to connect the pieces together.

My sample puppets were loosely based on traditional puppet images. The male puppet is wearing a horn shaped crown, and a decorated loin cloth. The female puppet is also royalty, she's wearing a traditional skirt and has a stylish hair do. I always encourage children to create their own patterns, the head should touch the top of the poster board and the feet the bottom. The four unconnected arm pieces, two upper arms and two lower arms,  fit on either side of the body. All the pieces need to be thick enough to accommodate the hole punch. When I'm working with groups of fifty children or more I often bring templates for those who aren't comfortable creating their own design.

After the body and arms are sketched onto the poster board the cutting begins.

Holes need to be punched through the shoulder of the body piece and the shoulder of the top arm piece. Brad fasteners join the pieces together while allowing movement.

The elbow connection also requires two punches, one in the base of the upper arm and another in the top of the lower arm. Once you've fastened them together repeat on the other side.

This is a great parent and child project, love to see big and little hands creating together!

Turn the puppet over and use a strip of packing tape to adhere one dowel rod to the bottom of the body and the other to the lower arm.

Decorative hole punching along the top of the puppet lets more light through and makes the shadow more interesting.

The moment we were all waiting for, the puppets worked! The kids had so much fun playing with them I wish I was able to record video. We had arranged the tables in front of the window bays to take advantage of the natural light. Translucent (inexpensive) plastic table cloths were taped to the table top and carpeting to make a stable screen.

Here's a happy puppeteer with her very own puppet design!

This wolf puppet casts a foreboding shadow.

So glad I got a shot of the creative action behind the screens.