Spring Chicken

spring chickenNo spring chicken? We got your spring chicken! The drinking straw “sticks” on this little bird puppet allow it to flap its wings and soar across the big blue sky! I designed the project for a weekend story time event for 50 kids. It needed to be inexpensive, appealing to ages 2 – 6, constructed without white glue or hot glue, and easy to put together with minimal adult assistance. For the full effect of the bird’s flight, check out the video clip at the end of the post!

You’ll need:

First, cut the bird’s body and wings from the template and color them with markers. Tape a jumbo craft stick to the back of the bird’s body (an 8″ craft stick work best). Make sure to leave approximately 1.5″ of space above the craft stick. Later, you’ll need that space to attach the bird’s wing.

bird on craft stick  with typeYou could also wait until the end of the project to tape the craft stick in place, but I found that the early placement of the stick helped kids attach their wings in the right place (i.e. close to the top of the bird’s body instead of the middle).

Next, fold each wing downwards along the dotted line, then attach the wings to the body with long pieces of tape. It’s important that the entire fold of the wing is covered with tape. I used orange masking tape to demonstrate this in the image below, but I used clear tape on the actual project.

taped wingNow stick an additional piece of tape over the bird’s back and wings like a “tape saddle.” Again, I used orange masking tape to demonstrate it below…

tape saddleUse tape to add feathers to the head, tops of the wings, and tail. Finally, tape the short end of a flexible straw to the underside of each wing, close to the wingtips (if the straws are too close to the body, the wings won’t flap properly). Use scissors to trim the ends of the straws so they don’t extend past the wings.

taped drinking straw with typeTo operate your bird, hold the craft stick in one hand, then gather the two drinking straws in your other hand. Holding the straws straight behind the bird, use them to flap the wings of the bird up and down!

Since my audience was primarily preschoolers, I read Birds, written by Kevin Henkes and illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books, 2009). It’s a lovely book with simple text and plenty of opportunities for audience participation (such as naming the colors of birds, naming the types of birds, and yelling “Surprise!” on one of my favorite pages). The illustrations are colorful, pretty, and, in some places, extremely imaginative and delightful.

Phantastical Phoenix

fantastical phoenixThe legendary bird of fire, wisdom, and regeneration is once again transformed…into an awesome box puppet with moveable head!

We read The Girl Who Drew a Phoenix by Demi (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008). Feng Huang finds a phoenix feather and captivated by the phoenix’s power. She decides to use her artistic abilities to create the perfect phoenix drawing, and capture some of the power of the phoenix. But her drawings are clumsy, and her friends laugh at her. The Queen Phoenix, seeing Feng Huang in need, flies to earth and allows Feng Huang to practice drawing her. But the drawings still don’t look right. The Queen then sends Feng Huang on a mission to learn from the phoenixes of Wisdom, Clear Sight, Equality, Generosity, and Right Judgement. When her journey is complete, Feng Huang is able to draw a phoenix so amazing, it soars into the sky, carrying the artist and her friends on its back.

You’ll need:

  • 2 rectangles of red felt (approximately 4.75″ x 11″)
  • 1 phoenix eye template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A small square of yellow or gold metallic poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 2.75″)
  • 3 red and/or gold sparkle stems
  • Red masking tape
  • 1 small feather in red
  • 1 triangle of red felt (approximately 2.25″ tall)
  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 6”)
  • Red construction paper
  • Phoenix decorating supplies (we used red construction paper, sparkle stems, red pipe cleaners, cellophane, large gold embossed foil seals, small red feathers, red & gold embossed foil paper, gold wrapping paper, textured gold paper strips, and gold & red curling ribbon)
  • A large rectangle of red cellophane (approximately 9.5″ x 20″)
  • 2 pieces of red crepe paper streamer (approximately 18″)
  • 2 strips of yellow poster board for legs (approximately, 1.5″ x 9″)
  • Scissors, tape, stapler, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

The phoenix puppet consists of 2 parts: 1) A sock puppet head; and 2) A box body that conceals the puppeteer’s arm. We’ll start with the head. Stack 2 rectangles of felt on top of one another and round one end of the stack. The rounded end will eventually be your phoenix’s head.

phoenix fabricAfter some debate about sewing vs. hot glue, we decided to sew the 2 felt pieces together. Lacking a sewing machine, we hand stitched, using double thread. Katie used a running stitch, I went with a classic whip stitch. It took a looooong time (like, 6 hours!). But in the end, when you turned the sewn heads right-side out, they looked great and held up to quite a bit of pummeling. However, if I was to do this project again, I would purchase pairs of red socks instead.

sewn phoenix headTo make your phoenix’s crest, bunch the bottoms of 3 sparkle stems together. Wrap red masking tape around the bunch, then use the barrel of a marker to give the free ends of the sparkle stems a little curl. Cut a pair of eyes from the template, and a beak from the yellow (or gold metallic) poster board. Then hot glue the crest, eyes, and beak to the top of the head.

head step 1Hot glue a red feather onto the masking tape to cover it, then hot glue a small triangle of felt over the bottom of the feather to complete the look.

crest coverage Set the head aside for a moment – it’s time for the body! Cut square openings in the ends of a box. Make sure to keep these openings fairly wide. If they are too narrow, they’ll rub against your arm while you’re manipulating your puppet.

holes in boxUse red construction paper to cover 2 sides of the box – the top of the box, and the side that faces outwards (i.e. towards your “audience”).

paper on boxNext, cut a tail and a wing out of construction paper. You only need one wing (which will eventually go on the side that faces your “audience”).  I cut my wing from 5.75″ x 10.5″ rectangle of red construction paper, and gave it a pointy shape.

wingThe tail was cut from a 3.65″ x 13″ rectangle of construction paper. Like the wing, I gave it a slightly pointy look.

tailI recommend decorating the wing and tail before you attach them to the box (because it’s much easier for kids to decorate an object that’s flat on the table). For decorating the wing, tail, and front & back of the box, we offered red construction paper, red and gold sparkle stems, red pipe cleaners, cellophane, small red feathers, red and gold embossed foil paper, gold wrapping paper, textured gold paper strips, and gold and red curling ribbon, and large gold embossed foil seals. In addition to these items, each tail had a big piece of red cellophane and 2 red crepe paper streamers.

To simulate feathers on the phoenix’s chest, I used this crazy fluffy yarn from Michael’s Craft store. I gave each kid a 3 foot piece and told them to wind it around and around the neck opening of their boxes (and secure it with glue or tape). It looked great!

fluffy yarnWhen you’re done decorating, attach the wing and tail to the body with hot glue. The tail needs to attach above the rear end opening! That way, the tail will hide your arm when it’s inside the puppet.

tail attachmentThe final step – phoenix legs! Cut toe shapes out of the bottom of 2 yellow poster board strips. Tab the bottom of each strip to create a foot, then tab the other end of the strip and hot glue it the bottom of the box. Done!

To operate your puppet, slide your arm through the openings in the box. The slide the phoenix head onto your hand. Tuck the end of the head into the box. The head doesn’t attach to the body (so later, if you want to discard the body and simply use the head like a sock puppet, you can). Wrap your free arm around the bottom of the box so it looks like you’re cradling your phoenix in your arms. Or, you can just carry your phoenix around like this adorable little guy did!

phoenix friend

Pas de Deux

pas de deuxTwirl and whirl with this beautiful ballerina marionette! Not so into pink tutus? No problem. We also have a pirouetting prince!

two dance togetherWe read Miss Lina’s Ballerinas and the Prince, written by Grace Maccarone, illustrated by Christine Davenier (Feiwel & Friends, 2011). Miss Lina’s ballerinas are delighted to learn that a boy will be joining their ballet class. A boy! Each girl imagines that she will be the one to dance a pas de deux with him at the end-of-year show. But the boy arrives and he’s not having it. With a leap and a bounce, he’s out the classroom door and dashing towards the zoo with the girls in pursuit. It becomes abundantly clear that the boy can dance, but not quite the way anyone expected. Eventually, the dancers learn to work together and all ten of them (Christina, Edwina, Sabrina, Justina, Katrina, Bettina, Marina, Regina, Nina and Tony Farina) perform brilliantly together at the end-of-year-show.

We’ll mainly use the ballerina for the instructional images below, but I’ll jump in every once in a while with something “prince specific.” And just in case you’re wondering, we did have some boys who choose to make pink ballerinas, and some girls who decided to make princes!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large rectangular box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”) a large tissue box works too
  • A box cutter
  • 2 small craft sticks (mine were 2.5″ long)
  • 2 pieces of curling ribbon (approximately 36″ each)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Pink construction paper (or blue for the prince)
  • 1 small square box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4”) a small tissue box works too
  • Brown, yellow, red, or black construction paper for hair
  • 2 white poster board rectangles for arms (approximately 1.75″ x 7.5″)
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Construction paper for ballet shoes (pink for ballerina, black for prince)
  • 2 white poster board rectangles for legs (approximately 1.5″ x 11.5″)
  • Plastic cellophane lace (pink for ballerina, blue for prince) Tissue paper works too!
  • A small gold or silver embossed foil seal (optional)
  • An 8.5″ piece of PVC pipe
  • 1/2 of a pipe cleaner
  • Scissors, tape, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, you’ll need to attach the string to your puppet. These puppets are going to do some bouncing and twirling, so I made sure to really anchor the string inside the box. To make the anchor, knot one end of a 36″ piece of curling ribbon around a small craft stick. Then reinforce the knot with masking tape.

anchor stickThen use a box cutter to cut a small slit on each side of the large box (aim for the the top, middle part of the box).

slit on boxUse scissors (or the craft stick) to enlarge the slits a little. From inside the box, push the curling ribbon outwards through the slit. Pull the ribbon until the anchor is flush against the inside of the box. Now thread the ribbon through the slit on the other side. But this time, you’ll start outside the box and push the ribbon in. Knot the unattached end of the ribbon around a small craft stick and reinforce the knot with tape. You now have a loop of curling ribbon that is anchored inside the box by two reinforced craft sticks.

finished stringNow for the ballerina’s leotard (and the prince’s jacket). For the ballerina, wrap a piece of  pink construction paper around the large box and tape it in the back. If you’d like, you can cut a little scoop in the top of the pink paper to create a neckline.

leotardFor the prince’s jacket, wrap a blue piece of construction paper around the box and tape it in the front. If you’d like, fold the tops back to form the “lapels” of the prince’s jacket. If you have extra construction paper hanging down the back of the box, consider cutting them into a jaunty pair of coat tails!

coatThe head is next! Fringe a piece of construction paper (we offered brown, yellow, black, and red) and hot glue (or tape) it around the top of a small square box. If you’d like to make a ballerina ponytail, gather the fringes together towards the back of the head

ponytail step 1Staple the fringes together, trim off any excess, then cover the staples with a masking tape “barrette.”

more ponytail stepsDraw a face on the front of the box (and ears on the sides) and attach the head to the body with hot glue.

faceNow for the arms. Round the rectangles of poster board at both ends. If you’d like, you can use scissors to shape a little thumb as well.

arm stepsFor the prince’s arms, wrap most of the arm with blue plastic cellophane lace (or blue construction paper) to create jacket sleeves, and then hot glue (or tape) to the box.

prince armFor the ballerina, simply hot glue (or tape) the unadorned arms to the sides of the box. Curl or fold them into whatever position you like.

To make the legs, wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with construction paper (pink for ballerina, black for prince). These will become your puppet’s dancing shoes. If you’re making a ballerina, draw some toe shoe ribbon on the white poster board legs strips (I started drawing mine about 0.5″ from the bottom of the strip).

lacingHot glue (or staple, or tape) the poster board legs to the inside of the toilet paper tubes. I had about 9″ of poster board leg extending above the top of the tube shoe.

finished legIf you’re making a prince, skip the ribbon and hot glue (or staple, or tape) the poster board legs to the inside of the tubes.

To attach your dancer’s legs, tab the top of the poster board strip and hot glue to them bottom of the box. You can see my leg placement in the image below (you can see the ballerina’s ponytail at the very bottom of the image). Make sure that one leg is attached at an angle. This is the leg that raise and lower later on a puppet string.

legs on boxNow for some finishing touches! If you’re making a ballerina, wrap and tape a long piece of pink cellophane lace around the bottom of the box to make a tutu (I had a spare roll of it left over from this princess dress program). My piece of cellophane lace was approximately 8″ x 39.5″. You can also make a tutu with tissue paper. We tested a 20″ x 26″ piece of tissue paper. We folded it in half (until it was 10″ high) and then wrapped it around the box. It looked great!

Stick a small foil seal to the front of the ballerina’s leotard for decoration (or decorate the leotard with markers). For the prince, use colored masking tape to make a belt around the jacket, and stick a small foil seal on the front as a belt buckle. If you have any extra blue cellophane lace (or even a Kleenex), make an ascot!

finished puppetsI have to share this fantastic prince puppet. This is a “Captain America dancer.” Love the shield, but I especially love the buttons down the front of the jacket! Why didn’t I think of buttons? They look awesome!

captain princeTo attach the puppet to its stick, hold the curling ribbon loop up to the bottom of a piece of PVC pipe and secure it with masking tape.

If you’d like your puppet to raise and lower a leg, follow these steps. First, twist 1/2 of a pipe cleaner into a loop, then knot a 36″ piece of curling ribbon onto it. Slide the pipe cleaner loop onto the PVC stick and tape the unattached end of the ribbon to the heel of your dancer’s shoe. Remember to attach the ribbon on the angled leg! When you’re ready to operate your puppet, slide the loop off the stick and move the leg up and down.

finished ballerinaAt the end of story time, I played some music from the Nutcracker, and kids danced a pas de deux with their puppets. There was plenty of creative and enthusiastic twirling, whirling,  and leaping going on, lemme tell you!