Over the past two years, one of the busiest activities during our Great Canadian Family Day has been our handmade shadow puppet theatre! Families have the opportunity to cut, colour, and craft unique creatures before stepping behind the “curtain” and onto the stage to put on a show in our shadow puppet theatre. We’ve seen some lively plays put on, with parents, grandparents, and older siblings cheering from their seats and taking in the story unfolding before their very eyes!
Creating your own puppet and shadow theatre is a great way to spend an afternoon with the family, and so we are sharing our much-beloved puppets for you to make at home! You can choose to print out our pre-coloured puppets, or print out a blank template and colour your own. After your puppet is coloured in just the way you want it, see our instructions below for creating your own shadow puppet theatre using a variety of items you can find in your house.
We’d love to see your puppets and a glimpse of your play! Use the hashtag #CCMfromhome or tag us @cndncanoemuseum on social media to share your creations with us.
How to Make a Stick Puppet
Click to download printable instructions
To make your stick puppet, you’ll need the following materials:
- A puppet template (see below) or you can trace or draw your own
- Paper to print or draw on
- Wooden dowelling (or wooden skewers with clipped ends, wooden spoons, chopsticks, or straws)
- Brass fasteners (make your own using small buttons & twist ties, or green gardening wire)
Step 1: Print, colour, and decorate your puppet
Step 2: Cut out the puppet pieces
Step 3: Hole Punch
Make holes where the circles are marked
Step 4: Fasten the pieces together
Push the paper fasteners from front to back and spread the fastener ends on the back.
Step 5: Attach dowels/sticks on the back with tape
Tape the skewer to the puppet parts that you want to move. Leave a tab of tape at the top of the dowel, fold it over. Tape this flap to the desired puppet part.
Step 7: Have FUN with your stick puppet!
How to Make a Shadow Puppet Theatre
Click to download printable instructions
To make a shadow puppet theatre, you’ll need the following materials:
- A screen
- A frame
- A source of light
- Craft supplies, cardboard, ribbon, etc.
Step 1: Frame
You’ll need to create a frame for your puppet theatre. This can be anything from a doorframe, table legs, a cardboard box, clothesline or a photography frame (that’s what we used for the Canadian Canoe Museum’s Family Day shadow puppet theatre, pictured above).
Step 2: Screen
This is what will be in front of your shadow puppets. You can use a white sheet, or light coloured plastic tablecloth, tissue paper, or vellum paper. Stretch the material across your frame and secure it to the frame using clamps, clips, rope, Velcro, or tape.
Step 3: A Source of Light
A shadow puppet theatre requires a source of light behind the screen to make the shadows. Look around your house for a source of light: a flashlight, table lamp, or clip-on lamp will all work. You might even be able to use the light on a cellphone! Play with the way the light affects your scene by adjusting the light, moving it closer or further away, depending on the effect you want!
Step 4: Backdrop
Set the scene and use your creativity to decorate your backdrop. You can use dried flowers, paper bows, construction paper, tassels, rocks, etc. to create a theme for your shadow puppet theatre. Once you have it to your liking, you are ready to stage your play!
Additional Activities & Resources
Discussion questions while crafting:
- Where are these animals natural habitats? Where would I find a beaver, or a polar bear?
- Imagine you are out on a canoe or kayak trip – what sights, sounds, and smells might you encounter on your journey? What animal friends may you pass by along the way?
Explore Shadow Puppetry Around the World!
Shadow Theatre, World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts
Learn the history of shadow theatre and the many cultures that practice this tradition all over the world.
Chinese Shadow Puppets: A Documentary
This 10 minute documentary explores the Chinese tradition of shadow puppetry.
Mouse and Cat – Chinese Shadow Puppetry
A short YouTube clip that tells the story of a mouse and cat with beautiful Chinese shadow puppets. You may be amazed by how intricate and detailed it is!