Shadow Puppet Plays
Putting on shadow puppet plays is a great way to encourage children’s storytelling skills. It’s also a great indoor activity for rainy afternoons when your child is going stir crazy to play outside. When Sola was younger, we used her play stands to put on shadow puppet shows. Unfortunately, when we moved, we had to get rid of the play stands. Yesterday, however, she wanted to put on a shadow puppet play. At first, I was resistant to trying to make some sort of shadow puppet theater, but she persisted with the idea today and it was rainy outside, so I finally caved and made her one. Once I finished, I realized that I should share my design so that anyone else who wanted to make one could do so without having to reinvent the wheel.
- Cardboard box (ours was 18″ l x 13″ w x 13″ d)
- Kite paper or other sheer paper (play silk or fabric would also work)
- Scissors, craft knife, utility knife, and/or other sharp cutting utensil
- Tape (I used packing tape)
- Black cardstock
- Dowels (1/4″) (popsicle sticks, lollipop sticks, straws, etc. will also work)
- Shadow puppets patterns
- Paint (optional)
- Cut a “theater stage” window on one of the long sides of the box, leaving about 1″ of the box intact on all four sides.
- Cut off the bottom flap of the box that is on the side of your “stage”. Tape the rest of the bottom of the box shut. This will leave an opening to put the puppets in, but also keeps the flashlight from falling on anyone’s head.
- Paint and decorate the box if you want to.
- Tape your piece of kite paper (or other paper, play silk, fabric, etc.) to the inside of the box such that it covers the entire “stage” opening of your box.
- Print out your shadow puppets.
- Staple the shadow puppet print out to a piece of black cardstock and use the printout as a pattern to cut puppets from the cardstock.
- Optional – You may want to paint your doweling (or Popsicle sticks, lollipop sticks, or straws) black, as the stick will show during the “play”. (All the professionally made shadow puppets that we have bought have had black sticks).
- Using glue, attach your doweling (or Popsicle stick, lollipop stick, or straw) to the back of the shadow puppet.
- Once everything is dry, put a lantern inside your shadow puppet theater and slide the stage a bit over the edge of the table so that your puppet master can stick the puppets up inside the box.
- Move the puppets around between the light and paper that is across the front of your stage. Experiment with moving the puppets closer and further from the stage paper. The audience sits in front of the box looking at the paper and will see the shadows only.
- You can use play silks or paper to hide your puppet master under the table from the view of the audience.
Free Downloadable Patterns
Here are the puppets that I made, which you are welcome to download.
Other Free Puppet Downloads
In addition to the shadow puppets I made, we also used these cute shadow puppets we found around the web:
- Billy Goats Gruff storytelling puppets from Wendy’s Craft Corner
- “Boy Themed” shadow puppets from Mini-eco
- Fairy tale characters from Welcome Baby
- Farm Animals from Brain Power Boy
- Halloween Puppets from The Crafty Crow and More Halloween puppets from Chez Beeper Bebe
- Hey Diddle Diddle puppets from Kidspot
- Mixed assortment of characters from Jen Goode’s 100 Directions
- Sea Creature puppets from Martha Stewart
- Woodland Creatures from The Junior Daily
Turning Things Over to You
Have you ever made a shadow puppet theater or put on a shadow puppet show? I never did as a child, except for using our hands to make animal shadows, but these shadow puppets are much more fun IMHO.