Mommy & Me Monday: Puppet Theaters!

Last week for Mommy & Me, we made Sir Bumble stick puppets. This week you can work together to make a puppet theater for them! There are two kinds of curtains you can make. You can either color and cut out curtains (a faster method), or make actual opening-and-closing curtains if you’re feeling extra crafty (plus the kids love opening and closing them as much as making the show)!

For the faster method, just do steps 1 -3!

For the opening-and-closing curtains, do all of the steps EXCEPT Step 3

I had so much fun making these and my kids loved playing with it. I’ve tried to keep the steps simple and straight forward, and the supplies are likely to be things you have on hand at home.

So, ready? Let’s do it!

SUPPLIES

Here’s what you need for both methods:

  • A shoe box with attached lid* (My box was for size 10 shoes. Adult-size shoe boxes are going to work best for this project!)
  • colorful tissue or wrapping paper or construction paper to decorate
  • tape
  • glue
  • 2 dowels (I used Tinker Toy rods. You could also use rulers or barbecue skewers or anything rod-like and strong enough to support the cardboard box)
  • Marquee coloring page

    *You can probably also cut off one flap/side rim of a detached lid and attach the lid to the box with packing tape to get the same effect.
    .

    YOU’LL ALSO NEED…
    …FOR THE SIMPLE CURTAINS METHOD:
    Puppet theater elements - curtain art

  • Print out, color, and cut out this curtain coloring page
    .

    …FOR THE OPENING – CLOSING  CURTAINS METHOD:

  • 1 dowel (or tinker toy/barbecue skewer etc.) that is at least as long as the shoe box for a curtain rod
  • 2 “curtains” (you could use baby washcloths or any pieces of cloth that, laid side by side, cover the opening of the box. I stitched together some quilt squares I had lying around to get the patchwork look.)
  • (2)  3′ lengths of ribbon (different colors)
  • 6+ safety pins
  • 6+ twist ties or pipe cleaners or small key rings (these will act like shower curtain rings, so small ring or anything you can twist into a small circle will work.)
  • 4 small binder clips

STEP 1 (for both methods)

The theater hangs over the edge of the table so the kids can put their puppets up through the bottom. So we need to brace the lid with the dowels to keep it from folding backwards. All you need to do is tape one dowel on each side of the lid (make them close to the outside edges of the box as I did), and make sure a few inches of each dowel go out past the folded edge that attaches the lid to the box, so that once the lid is opened, the box will rest on the dowels.

TIP: Only tape the dowels to the lid, that way the box can still close for easier storage!

closed box theater

STEP 2 (for both methods)

Now we need a hole for the puppets to come up through. Turn your theater over and cut an opening in the BOX portion (not the lid) that fits between the two dowels.

 

STEP 3 – COLORING PAGE CURTAINS (Skip this step if you’re doing the full curtains)

If you’re doing the colored curtains, then you’re almost done! Go ahead and color and cut out the curtains and marquee.

Fold down the tabs on the curtain and marquee.

coloring cutains -fold

Attach curtains to sides of box by gluing/taping the tabs down.

Cover sides with tissue/wrapping paper, hiding the white tabs.

coloring curtains -1

Add theater marquee to top.

Put tissue/wrapping paper on top to cover marquee tab.

coloring curtains -2

Tape backdrop into the theater – I put a metal brad through the back, so the brass tabs would hold the background edges flat. You can also just tape it! (Note – I put my backdrop in a sheet protector to protect it from being torn while getting taped and retaped during backdrop changes in the future.)

insert BG

Voila! Place on edge of table and make your own theatrical masterpiece together!

coloring curtains -3

I’d love to see your finished theaters! Post a pic in the comments!

 

STEP 4 (Full curtains)
Now you’ll want to make your curtains if you’re feeling like sewing. As I said, I sewed quilting squares together for fun, but you can use baby washcloths or two simple single squares of cloth so long as together they cover the opening. So once you’re satisfied with that step, put safety pins along the top of the curtain on the back side. I only needed three for each of mine.

curtains pins

Now unless your curtain rod is thin enough to run through the closed safety pins, you’ll need to make some shower curtain rings. I used some pipe cleaner pieces. Loop a piece through each safety pin and twist it closed. Remember to do these steps for each curtain!

Next we need to attach the ribbons that will be pulled to open and close the curtains. We’re getting fancy here – one color ribbon, attached at the top corners, will close the curtains. The other color, attached at the middle, will open them.

Cut each length of ribbon into two equal pieces. You should end up with four ribbons, two of each color. (and each piece of ribbon should be 18″ – 24″ish)

curtains ribbons-1 det
tie ribbon to the safety pin that’s poking through the front side.
curtains ribbons-1
front of left-hand curtain

I flipped the curtains over and tied the yellow ribbons to the bit of exposed safety pin on the front leading edge of each curtain. Then I pinned the orange check ribbon to the middle of each the curtain. NOTE: Make sure you do the right edge of one curtain and the left edge of the other.

 

STEP 5

Let’s start to decorate the box before installing the curtains. Cut out and color the marquee. Fold down the tab and glue/tape to the top front edge of the theater.

Puppet theater elements - marquee art

Cut out a piece of tissue/wrapping paper for the top but don’t glue it all the way down yet. I just attached mine at the back edge with tape.

Now cover the front “stage”(the lid) and sides of the box with tissue or wrapping paper. I used green on the stage so that it could be like grass in the foreground of the performance.

pole install-binders

Place two binder clips on each side of the box as shown. If your curtain rod is long enough to poke through the sides of your box you won’t need the top binder clips (though they may add stability to your box).

 

STEP 6

Install the background you colored last week, using tape. I put mine in a sheet protector but that isn’t necessary. Just wanted to keep it safe from tape tearing it. I also put metal brads through the back of the theater so the tabs inside would hold my background edges down. You can also just use tape for that).

insert BG

 

STEP 7

Now we’re ready to install the curtains! Thread your curtains along the curtain rod, making sure the ribbons meet in the center.

curtains ribbons-2

My curtain rod is the exact width of my box, so I’ll be installing it by putting it into the binder clip handles on the inside. If your curtain rod is wider than your box, you can nix the top binder clips and poke holes through the sides of your box (where the binder clips would’ve been) instead.

 

 

STEP 8

Now we’ll thread the ribbons so that the curtains can open and close!

Attach the outside/trailing edge of each curtain to the sides of the box using the binder clip as shown.

curtain install -1
Attach left hand curtain to the left side of box with binder clip. (attach right curtain to right side)

Next, on the left hand curtain, take the middle ribbon (orange in the picture) and stick it through the handle of the bottom binder clip on the left side of the theater.

Now do the same thing for the right hand curtain, sticking the middle (orange) ribbon through the handle of the bottom binder clip on the right.

Each orange (middle) ribbon is now going toward its own side. When you pull on them, the curtains will open!

curtain install -2

Now cut a slit on the top edge of each side of the box.

curtain install -3 cut slit

 

Take the yellow (top) ribbon that’s attached to the left hand curtain and thread it through the slit we made on the RIGHT side of the theater.

curtain install -4 yellow ribbon2

Next take the yellow (top) ribbon that’s attached to the right hand curtain and thread it through the slit on the LEFT side of the theater.

curtain install -5

They’ll now criss-cross in the middle of the theater. But they also droop down. So let’s tie those guys out of the way loosely.

Take a bit of pipe cleaner or a twist tie and loop it loosely around the ribbons right at the center of the curtain rod. Make sure you leave a bit untwisted at the bottom as shown.

curtain install -7 loop -twist

Now make of hole in the ceiling, right above the center of the  curtain rod. Poke the “legs” of the twisted pipe cleaner through the hole.

curtain install -8 loop -twist insert

Now flatten out the feet on top of the box so it doesn’t fall back through.

curtain install -9 loop -twist insert top

Finally, put the top piece of tissue paper down to cover up the marquee tab and pipe cleaner.

 

theater top

 

You’re done!!

AND NOW for the SHOW!

Share photos of your theatrical masterpiece in the comments!

 

 

 

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