Transform a plain cardboard box into a playhouse with curtains, moving scenery, and doors that open and close for each act. You can use our templates to make chow chows, frogs, sharks, rabbits, fish, and birds, or fashion your own paper animals using your imagination. Joined with brass paper fasteners, the puppets' limbs are pulled by strings, and sturdy dowels enable you to move the figures around the stage.
Create your puppet show around a particular setting, such as the ocean or forest; children will enjoy thinking up stories, songs, and characters for performances. Of course, adults should supervise children when making this project. For her Turkey Hill Theatre, Martha uses an 18-by-18-inch cardboard box; adjust the dimensions to your desired size.
After you're finished, make Paper Puppets to go in your theatre.
- Cardboard box
- Utility knife
- Self-healing mat
- Metal straightedge
- Packing tape
- Awl or hole punch
- Crepe paper
- Double-sided tape
- Tongue depressors
Remove any tape or staples from box. Position box with all of its top flaps open. With a utility knife, remove one of the flaps (if the box is rectangular, remove one of the wider flaps), to create the opening for the theatre.
Stand the box on its side so that the missing-flap side becomes the base. Label the opening as the front; then label the top, bottom, back, and sides accordingly.
Flatten the box. For the top opening, from which the puppets will hang, draw a 16-by-8-inch rectangle on the top of the box, leaving 4 inches of space in front and 6 inches in the back with a 1-inch border on the sides. To make the slits in which the scenery will be inserted, draw three rectangles (16 by 1/2 inch, 12 by 1/2 inch, and 6 by 1/2 inch) 1 inch apart on both sides toward the back and 1 inch from the bottom. (The largest rectangle should be closest to the back; the smallest one closest to the front.) Insert a self-healing mat between the layers of cardboard so you don't cut through both layers. Cut out the top and scenery openings with a utility knife, using the metal straightedge as a guide.
To make the theatre's marquee, use the utility knife to carefully score across the center of the top front flap so that it folds in half horizontally. (Make sure not to cut completely through the cardboard.) Fold back the flap so that its end rests flush against the front cut edge of the rectangular opening on the top of box. Secure with a length of packing tape.
Tape up the back of the box. Reinforce around any cut edges, such as the top and scenery openings, with packing tape.
With an awl or hole punch, punch one hole at the center of each side flap (the flaps will serve as the theatre doors). Punch one hole in the center of each side of the box. Cut two 20-inch lengths of twine. Pull one length through the hole on one side of the box, and knot so that it catches on the inside of the box. Thread the other end through the hole in the corresponding flap. Pull flap back, and secure twine to itself with a bow. Repeat on other side.
To make the curtains for the theatre doors, cut two pieces of crepe paper so that each piece measures the height of one of the doors by twice its width. Place a piece of double-sided tape across the top edge of each door. Attach the papers to the doors, gathering the paper to resemble a curtain.
For the moving scenery, cut three pieces of cardboard slightly larger than the box's width (26 by 15 inches, 26 by 5 inches, and 26 by 3 inches). Decorate the boards, which will protrude slightly out of the scenery openings, and glue tongue depressors to the back of both sides to form handles so that you will be able to move the scenery.
Cut a piece of paper so that it covers the marquee. Write the name of your theatre on the paper, and secure onto the marquee with double-sided tape. Insert scenery into the scenery openings.