Bread Roll Puppets

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Today, Travis had full permission to play with his food because we turned a bread roll into a puppet!

To start, I showed Travis how to make a “smile” in a French bread roll by cutting a slit in the middle like a mouth.

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Poke two additional holes above the mouth with a butter knife to be the eyes. We filled these with chocolate chips, although raisins might have worked better.

For a silly tongue, fold up your favorite meatless deli slice (like Tofurky), and insert into the mouth.

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Let the showtime begin! Travis immediately began both eating the puppet and being silly with it, squeezing so the mouth could move. The rolls were so delicious that the puppet didn’t last long! But if you manage to slow your hungry kids down, arrange the rolls on a plate with basil or lettuce leaves as hair for a cute photo-op first.

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Crazy Bird Puppets

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If a cold winter afternoon is driving your kids a bit stir-crazy, then make crazy puppets with all that energy. Crazy bird puppets that is!

To start, paint paper plates with any colors your kids want. You’ll need two and half plates per bird, but we just went crazy (of course!) and painted more than we needed, ending up with about 7 or 8 plates.

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Veronika really wanted to help, too, and loved mixing colors and alternating between large- and small-bristled brushes.

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I needed some place to let all those plates dry. Ideally I would have had some place to hang them from clothespins, but I settled for laying them down on top of scrap paper in the bathtub. Once dry, we folded two plates in half and then stapled together. Place the half plate underneath the bottom one and staple on.

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Now, your hands can insert between the two full-sized plates so you can work the “beak” of the bird to make it look like he’s cackling and cawing and talking. Travis helped glue on feathers and pom poms for decoration, and then these birds looked even crazier.

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Put a sock on your wrist and you’ll even have the illusion of colorful neck feathers as you make the bird’s beak move.

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Here’s hoping you have a crazy good time with these puppets.

Brown Paper Bag Owl Puppets

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My kids love to play a game together involving a stuffed animal owl, so I knew they would go nuts for these easy owl puppets. We made two so that each sibling would have an owl to fly around.

To start, you’ll need two lunch-sized brown paper bags (ideally without any company writing on the front, but oh well…). I then cut out various features from colored construction paper, including triangle beaks, three sizes of circles for eyes, and a brown cut-out for each belly.

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Travis loved helping glue down all the pieces with a glue stick, especially the three-layered eyes.

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We added feather markings to the bellies with orange marker.

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And that quickly, the owls were ready to play.

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It was safe to say that the kids thought these puppets were a hoot!

Palm Puppets

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These quick puppets are easy to put together and can be decorated to look like just about any character your child desires!

They’re called ‘palm’ puppets not in reference to the palm of your hand, but because puppets like these were originally made from palm fronds in countries like India. You can replicate the idea with thick paper.

Both kids had high enthusiasm when I suggested the craft to fill a winter afternoon, and they were soon busily drawing their characters. To make sure your puppet has a front and back, fold a piece of construction paper in half and draw the head where the paper is creased.

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Travis proudly drew a favorite Star Wars character, while Veronika was happy just to scribble at his side!

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Cut out the bodies and then tape onto straws. (Note: You could also staple the bodies to the straws or use glue, but tape was quickest). I then cut 4 rectangles for each puppet to be the arms and legs. Poke a small hole in each rectangle, as well as in the body of the puppet where the limbs will attach, then insert a brad at each joint.

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The puppets arms and legs will flap about if your child rubs the straw briskly between their palms. If the limbs aren’t moving, check that your brads aren’t too tight.

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Obi-Wan Kenobi soon had a blue light saber!

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Meanwhile Veronika loved the Baby Yoda we made.

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Whether spinning them or just waving these puppets around for make-believe play, this was a great craft for a cold afternoon.

Dancing Puppets

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After engineering puppets for his latest Kiwi Crate, Travis had fun making this super-simple version from supplies we had around the house.

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To start, all he needed was an empty toilet paper tube. Punch two holes near the top; they’ll look almost like eyes at this point, but aren’t for that purpose.

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For the arms, cut two strips of construction paper that are the same length as the tube. Punch two holes near one end of each strip, and attach a paper clip to the other end.

Line up the bottom hole of each arm with the holes in the tube; insert a brad, and fasten. Loop string through the top hole of each arm, and secure at the top with a knot.

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Now all Travis had to do was pull down on the string to make the arms rise!

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This made a funny, wobbly puppet, and Travis knew exactly how he wanted to decorate the face: as a “Shadowtrooper” from Star Wars.

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No wonder he chose black paper for the arms! Your kids can have fun making a whole bunch of these simple puppets and decorating any way they choose.

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Puppet Engineering Kiwi Crate

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Puppets are the perfect STEAM-style blend of engineering (simple machines, gravity) and art (decoration), which means it was the perfect subject matter for Travis’s latest crate from Kiwi Co.

The crate featured two types of puppets, and first up was to Make a Marionette. Travis helped assemble the control bar by attaching two wooden sticks with a rubber band.

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The puppet’s body is a piece of cloth, and we threaded wood beads onto each corner through pipe cleaners. The pipe cleaners are then left at the top corners to become the strings for the arms. This was a wise choice on the part of Kiwi Crate, as there was no risk of strings tangling and frustrating your child! A final wooden bead and pipe cleaner go on for the head, and the pipe cleaners then loop onto the control bar.

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There are foam headpieces and stickers in the kit to make three different animals: a lion, a rabbit, and a bear. Travis chose the lion first. Roar!

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It was nice that these pieces are interchangeable so your little puppeteer can vary the plot of the story. Next up was Talking Puppets, which were completely different to put together. Travis first decorated two paper templates, the bird template with feather stickers and the crocodile template with scale stickers.

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We assembled the handles, which are made of three wooden frame pieces per puppet attached to a strip of paper with a brad. The middle piece slides up and down, allowing the puppet’s “mouth” to open and close. Travis added on his decorated bird and alligator bodies with the provided Velcro strips and then the puppets were ready to go!

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After all that, the puppets needed a stage, so it was time to make a quick Puppet Theater. Kiwi is great about suggesting ways to upcycle the crate itself, and that’s exactly what was going on here. Cut a rectangle from the lid of the crate (or a similarly-sized shoebox) with scissors. Poke the pointy end of a pencil into each side of the box and then tape the eraser end up into the top corners, so the box is now propped open.

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If your kids are feeling artsy, have them decorate the crate with markers or other craft supplies. I suggested we make a Puppet Theater marquee sign, but Travis skipped ahead into having the puppets put on a show.

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It was time for imagination to take over after all that scientific engineering!

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To finish the fun, Travis checked out this kit’s Explore booklet, including mazes, more about the science of how puppets move, and cultural facts about puppets from around the world.

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We also read Balloons over Broadway (all about the invention of the puppets in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade), and 10-Minute Puppets by Noel MacNeal.

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People Puppets

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Veronika loved a recent twist on block play, where we adorned regular building blocks with faces. Today I used roughly the same idea to make people puppets!

Simply cut out faces of family and friends from photographs, then attach each one to a jumbo craft stick. Cover with clear contact paper to seal and protect.

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That quickly, the puppets were ready to play. Veronika loved saying hello to them!

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(Though she sometimes seemed put out that they didn’t respond back!).

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We acted out all sorts of familiar scenarios between parents and kids, or just made up silly stories. Either way, she definitely marveled at the fact that people she knows were right in her hands in puppet form.

She also just loved carrying them around.

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This was simple but engaging puppet play, and easy enough for any day.

Puppet Pop-Up and Theater

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Puppet play is always fun for a toddler, but here are two ways to specifically involve an older sibling in the action!

For the first game of the day, we made a proper puppet theater. Decorate the outside of a large box, big enough that an older sibling can crawl inside. After the kids were done coloring with markers, I cut a large “window” in one side.

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Veronika wanted to be the first one inside with our set of puppets! She loved that it was like a little house.

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It was fun to trot the puppets along the ‘roof’!

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It only got better once I hot-glued fabric along either side of the window as curtains. Now she could peak through with delight.

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Then it was big brother Travis’s turn to crawl in and put a puppet on his hand… for a real show! Veronika delighted in seeing the puppets perform.

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Plus she loved peeking inside the box to see what Travis was up to!

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For a simpler version, you can nix the big box and just play puppet pop-up at the highchair. Because kids can’t see over the rim of their highchair tray, it’s the perfect spot for a game like this.

Simply have a big sibling (or grown-up) hold a puppet just below the tray.

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Then pop up for a performance. Hello!

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This one is sure to elicit giggles every time.

Summer Boredom Bucket List: Day 3

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Welcome to the third installment of ways to bust boredom! Hopefully these suggestions are already helping you avoid the dreaded “I’m bored” in your summer of social distancing.

Idea 9: Math-a-Mowing. Want to trick your kids into mowing the lawn? Okay, maybe not really, but I’m not joking when I say that this activity kept Travis happily busy for almost an hour.

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The original challenge was to see how long it took to snip the grass in 1 square foot of our yard. Using school scissors, we calculated it took about 1 minute. You can then extrapolate from there. If your yard were 10 feet square, then it would take you 10 minutes. Just imagine how long it would take to do a full football field this way! (Come to think of it, sit your older kids down to solve that problem with math, for another boredom buster…).

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Now Travis had discovered the simple thrill of using scissors in the grass, and he couldn’t be stopped. He loved trimming clover flowers and blades of tall grass, and proudly showing me how neat he had made each patch of lawn. Plus he discovered lots of bugs as he worked, popping up from his work to tell me about the latest six-foot critter he’d found. So it turned into a morning of nature exploration!

Idea 10: Squeeze Fresh and Fruity Orange Juice. Start the day off right with this fun activity. First, make oranges nice and squishy by rubbing them under your palms. This will help get the juice out to the max in the next step!

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Squeeze out with a citrus juicer, or just squeeze the oranges over a bowl. Pour into a glass and watch your kids’ eyes pop at the freshest juice they’ve ever tasted.

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Idea 11: Learn to Juggle. Here was another suggestion that was a bit advanced for a 6-year-old. Highlights had broken the lesson down into three steps, and we took it one step at a time. First was just tossing one bean bag back and forth. Travis mastered this quickly. In fact, he mastered it with his eyes closed, standing on one foot, looking over his shoulder, you name it!

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I was glad he was so proud because step two was beyond his coordination: Toss up one bean bag, then toss the second up when the first one reaches its apex. At least now we have a goal to keep working toward! Even this mama wasn’t very good at moving to step three – 3 bean bags!

Idea 12: Make Stick Puppets of Family Members. As was the case with our doodles from fingerprints, this game started simple and became loads of silly fun. At first Travis didn’t understand when I said we should make stick puppets of our family on craft sticks. But I showed him that we were imagining the stick itself was the body, and we needed to draw on features.

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Now he caught on to the idea, filling in hair, eyes, clothing, and other details. He insisted we make a puppet for the cat, too! (Note: If your kids prefer to be craftier, try making these puppets from fabric or felt, instead!).

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We then acted out silly stories about our family. And I do mean silly! This brought out the little kid in me, acting out tales that had us swimming through swamps and giggling at family inside jokes.

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We’ll be back tomorrow with a new batch of boredom busters!

Pompom Puppets

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Travis needed an art project for the first day of “home school”, so I turned to Highlights magazine for inspiration. It turned out the pompom puppets we tackled were a bit advanced for a kindergartner, but we sure got silly and had fun making them.

The method looked simple enough: Wind colorful yarn around the tines of a fork to make the body of a pompom.

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Tie with a small piece of yarn in the center, making sure to tightly double-knot, then slide off the fork and snip the loops on either end so you have the frills of a pompom.

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This sounded good in theory! But we quickly found out that the fork resulted in very small pom poms and they unraveled into pieces when we tried to cut the loops. Thinking quickly, we wound around mommy’s fingers instead! This resulted in workable pompoms.

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To turn them into puppets, wrap colored felt around your child’s finger until it is the right size, then use glue to secure.

Travis helped pick out decorations for his silly creatures, but once again the project was a bit hard for small hands. I jumped in with a little hot glue to secure pipe cleaner antennae, wiggle eyes, and button decor according to his wishes.

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What silly creatures!

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Travis loved waving them on his fingers. Soon they even had little space pods to travel around in.

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Plus he even had fun playing with the extra yarn from our failed attempts, in what turned into a very creative game. So these turned out to be great for imaginative play, even if the crafting was too advanced for him.

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