Reading Time: 6 minutes

This project is designed to suit normal classroom conditions and illustrates how to adapt the classroom to create the working space required.

Puppetry is sometimes neglected by teachers as planning and sourcing materials takes some time, but this can be solved by planning ahead and by asking parents to contribute recyclable materials in advance.

Textile puppet making is suitable for any age group, as the techniques can be adapted to different levels of ability. For very young children it is advisable to have a couple of parents come to the classroom to assist.

Art Technique

Textile puppets, painting and drama

Age Group

Preschool – Year 6


3 sessions of 1 hour and 30 minutes each


Create characters that involve the use of textiles, paint and other materials. This activity encourages individual expression and group participation. Puppetry, as a group activity, links in with other areas of the school curriculum such as literature and drama.


  • To provide students with the steps involved in making a 3D puppet from idea through to end product
  • To give students an understanding of how to create a puppet from found and recyclable materials while expanding their ability to visualize the character


  • Chroma 2 Washable : warm and cool red,warm and cool yellow, warm and cool blue plus black and white 
  • 1 medium paintbrush #6 per student
  • 1 small paint brush #3 per student
  • 6 or 8 plastic containers for water, (ice cream containers are ideal),
    2 per group
  • 6 or 8 plastic ice cube trays for paint, 2 per group
  • 1 roll of cling wrap to cover the paint trays
  • 1 roll of sandwich paper cut to letter size for mixing paint (discard at the end of
    the painting session)
  • 1 x 11×17 sheet paper (for creating puppet body pattern)
  • 1 x 11×17 sheet paper per student (for drawing and painting their puppet group) 2 pieces of calico (approx. 35 x 40 cm)
    per student cut according to the pattern
  • 30 Chenille Needles #22 and thread – crochet cotton is ideal (for Years 5–6 only). Younger students may need assistance to sew the puppet bodies.
  • 60 pins for pinning the calico bodies onto the newspaper for painting
  • 1 old pillow or cushion (for stuffing puppet heads) per class
  • 1 roll of masking tape
  • 8 cm squares of felt in different colors
  • colored yarns, jute or raffia for puppet hair
  • soft leather off-cuts
  • Decorative Items: Beads, buttons, colored yarns, costume jewellery, cord, fake fur, feathers, fleece, felt, foil trays, jute, lace, leather, pipe cleaners, match sticks, netting, raffia, rhinestones, ribbons, seed pods, sequins, tulle, and wool.


A list of recyclable materials and equipment can be sent home asking parents to provide materials such as:

  • a paint shirt with sleeves cut off, extra old T-shirts to cut up for rags, a stack of newspapers to cover the tables
  • ice cream containers, discarded ice cube trays and/or plastic egg cartons for water and paint
  • any items in the Decorative items list above.

The steps

Visual references

It is not widely known that Bauhaus artist Paul Klee made hand puppets for his son, using old cut up clothes from around the house, plaster and clay.

The puppets represented the different characters of his village, such as the butcher, the teachers and so on. For more information, visit his website.

Room arrangement

Designate an area for storing all the prepared materials needed at different stages of the project.

Put the paint in ice cube trays and the water in ice-cream containers (2 or 3 each per group).

Give each student a small and a large paint brush, a piece of rag to wipe the paint brushes and a piece of scrap paper for mixing the paint on (2).

Before you start showing visual references and demonstrating the procedure, make sure everything is in ready at hand.

1. Room arrangement

2. Art material set up

First session


To help students to focus on their ideas, gather them in a group, show some samples of Paul Klee’s puppets and encourage them to talk about their plans to create their own puppets.


Give each student a pair of cut up calico puppet bodies pinned on a sheet of newspaper to paint (3). Students write their names on their own sheet of newspaper.

3. Calico puppet bodies pinned to newspaper – unpainted

Students paint their puppet bodies with Chroma 2 Washable Paint, using patterns (4)

4. Painted calico puppet bodies left to dry thoroughly overnight

How to make a puppet pattern

Fold an 11×17 paper in half. Draw half the outline of a body shape with a pen or pencil, then cut it out. Open the pattern and place it over two pieces of calico.

Pin together and cut around the body shape leaving an extra one centimeter all around so you can still see the outline of the body shape.

Make the head of the pattern proportionally a bit longer and larger so the puppet head (5) can be glued onto it at a later stage.

Second Session

For Years 4–6 students, provide needles and cotton to sew the puppet bodies together. For younger students, engage one or two parent helpers to do the sewing.

Create the head using old skin toned or colored stockings. Stuff with cushion filling to pad out and shape the head giving it volume (5).

5. Puppet head

Glue the head to upper part of the puppets body. Add features such as hair, eyes, nose and a mouth and then glue on materials to decorate and adorn the puppets, such as lace, buttons, fake fur and beads etc…

Add hands and feet to make the puppets more character like and expressive. (See student gallery for some finished examples.)

Third Session


Group puppets on the table centers and draw the group on A3 cartridge paper with oil crayons, pastels, charcoal or black pens and washes of the thinned paint.

First draw with charcoal or one color pastel, then apply different colors mixing and blending in an expressive way as in (6).

6. Drawing of a puppet group

Please note: If using charcoal, fix the charcoal drawing with Pastel Fixative before applying color pastels, oil crayons or paint washes.

Display stands

For cheap and easy stands, use plastic soft drink bottles with pebbles, sand or clay in the bottom to keep them upright.

Chroma 2 Washable Tempera

1 set of 8 x 2L bottles of the 6 primary colors, plus black and white should be sufficient paint supply for a year, for a class of approximately 25 students. Chroma 2 Washable is suitable for other art techniques such as printmaking and is also designed to be used on textured surfaces such as clay, timber and fabrics.

This project has been designed to suit normal classroom conditions and illustrates how the classroom can be adapted to create working space required.

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