Lunchbag Puppets

These big-mouth puppets are a great deal of fun, especially for younger children.  Most everyone can make a puppet of a sort out of a paper bag, but this design is a little more expressive and allows for more creativity.  I make these puppets with my second-graders, and sometimes first and third.  It is important when working with a group of children to go slowly, step-by-step through the process, and stress that everyone, even if they are sure they know what to do, should stay with the group and not move ahead a step.


You Will Need

Paper lunchbags (small size)--enough for one for each student, plus some extras in case of error or emergency.  (It is best to use brand new bags, because opening and using the bags makes them difficult to work with.  You can usually find lunchbags sold by the hundred at the grocery store.)


Construction paper, various colors, enough for everyone to use a full sheet, plus extra for details.


Glue sticks.  (I like to have enough for everyone in the class to have their own.  You can buy them by the dozen.  I use glue sticks that are purple until the glue dries--although it dries clear.  This makes the glue easier to see and simplifies the project.)


Scissors--enough for everyone to share easily.


Markers or crayons.


A few completed lunchbag puppets for show.


Making the Puppets

What follows is a transcription of what I say as I do this project with my students.  As I narrate the instructions I also make a puppet in front of the class.


Today we're going to make Lunchbag Puppets, like the ones I have here.  You can make your puppet anything you want--it can be an animal, a person, real or imaginary.  But we're going to go through the first part--the actual putting-together of the puppets--all together.  Even if you think you know how, try not to get ahead.

We start with one sheet of construction paper.  This is the main color of your puppet, so choose carefully.  Fold the paper in half the short way (like a hamburger, not like a hot dog).

Open it up and cut along the fold.  Now you have two smaller rectangles of paper.

Fold one of the rectangles in half again, the short way, but don't cut it.  Now you have one folded and one unfolded rectangle of construction paper.

Take your lunchbag but don't open it up!  Examine it until you have found the rectangle of paper that becomes the "bottom" of the bag when it is opened.  (At this point I generally have to go around to everyone and make sure they have it right.) Place the bag on the desk so that the "bottom" of the bag is at the top and facing you. (Make sure everyone gets it.)

Lift up the "bottom" of the bag as if you were opening a mouth, and fold it back. (This is the hardest step for children to grasp.  The idea is not to fold the bottom itself, but rather to rotate the entire bottom so that it faces the other way.  You'll have to help.)

This should reveal a flat surface marked by creases into two long, narrow rectangles.  (Check that everyone is on the right page.)

Take your glue stick and cover both of these rectangles with glue.  It is almost impossible to use too much.  (Help whoever needs it.)

Now take your folded piece of construction paper and fit the fold of the paper into the crease between the rectangles in the bag.  Close the "mouth" down on the paper and press to set the glue.  (Help whoever needs it.  Many students will be tempted at this point to put their hands in their puppets and make the mouths go, but try to prevent it, because it is often difficult or impossible to get the bag folded flat again afterwards, and you'll need to.)

Place your puppet on your desk so that it is "face up," and you can see the "bottom" of the bag and the lower part of your folded construction paper.

Take your glue stick and cover all of the visible construction paper and the "bottom" of the bag with glue.

Now take your other rectangle of construction paper and glue it to the puppet so that the bottom edge of the unfolded paper matches the bottom edge of the folded paper, and the top of the unfolded paper sticks off the top of the puppet.

Now you have finished the assembly part of the puppet-making process.  You can put your hand inside and make the mouth work, like this.  Don't do it too much, though, until the glue has a chance to really dry.

Your next step is to cut the top of the head and the mouth into whatever shape you want.  One warning, though:  You can cut the paper into any shape or size as long as you DON'T CUT THE BAG!  (I generally have to go around and show everyone how to tell where the bag stops, so they can avoid cutting into it when shaping their mouths, and still a few usually  manage to do it.  That's why the extra bags, and why I always make one myself, which I can let a student have if one makes a mistake.)

Once you've cut your puppet's head to the shape you want, you can decorate it with markers or by gluing more construction paper to it.  By the way, that's another way to make the head a different shape.  If you want really long ears, for instance, don't try to cut them into the puppet's head--cut them out of a second sheet and glue them on.  You can also glue arms, legs, tails, etc onto the body of your puppet if you want.

You're done!  Wow!


Manipulating the Puppets

Since these are big-mouth puppets, their primary ability is talking.  In fact it's the only thing they really do.  So I try to exploit this when working with these puppets, and to create lessons that stress the verbal.  The simplest way to go about it is to have everyone sit on the floor in a circle, each with his or her puppet.  Explain that while everyone talks, everyone talks in their own way.  What sort of voice do you think your puppet might have?  What sorts of things might it say?  One by one, the puppets speak--each making a short speech, sometimes as short as, "Hi!"  As the students gain confidence the speeches tend to lengthen, so I usually go around the circle a couple of times to let everyone express themselves.  Then we go around the circle again, with the instruction that each puppet must directly address one of the other puppets.  The puppeteers should choose which puppet to address logically.  (For instance, a dog might say to a cat, "Look out, I'm going to get you.")  Usually I go around the circle at least twice this way as well, and don't allow the students to address the same other puppet each time.