DIY: Halloween Puppets

There’s a chill in the air, jack o’lanterns and ghostly decorations are everywhere. Yes, Halloween is near! This year we wanted to try making something different other than the usual paper plate masks and construction paper cut out bats. We love those, don’t get me wrong but we came up with our own project and we love it. We made puppets with foam balls, wooden dowels and my husband’s old shirts (sshhh! Don’t tell!) The best part of this project is that you can make any character you want and make them as crazy as you want them to be.  This is how we did it:

1. Make the heads:

You’ll need 3” smooth foam balls (or approximate size),  gesso, wooden dowels, pencil, craft paint in the colors of your choice, brushes in different sizes. For the optional steps you’ll need school glue, water, tissue paper, mod podge or finishing spray.

Cover the foam balls with a couple coats of Gesso. You need to do this in order for the paint to stay on the surface later on, that way it won’t peel off. After the gesso is dry, use a pencil to draw your puppets’ facial features. Draw eyes, mouths, big ones, small ones, anything you like, this is Halloween after all! Use your craft paint to paint the ball all around, making sure you can still see the pencil lines through the paint. Trace the features with a thin brush. Insert the wooden dowel at the bottom of the head. Because the foam ball is soft, it won’t be hard to get the dowel in there but you may use the tip of a pencil to get a hole started and then push the dowel. 

Optional steps:

* If you would like to make three-dimensional features such as ears or noses, you’ll need to make a quick mix of papier maché. Simply mix equal amounts of school glue and water and dip shredded pieces of tissue paper in it, mold into shape and place on the foam ball, where you want it. It will be very wet, you will need to let it dry overnight. This is what I did for the cat’s ears and nose and the pumpkin’s stem.

* You may add a special touch by adding the year on the back and making it a family keepsake. 

* After painting the head and facial features, you may add a layer of mod podge or finishing spray. That way you’ll be able to show off your puppet for years!

2. Make the clothes:

I kept this part very simple. I used sleeves from old men’s shirts. Cut off the sleeves and cut off the cuffs. Then gather the narrower end at the base of the puppets’ heads and glue gun it to the dowel, at the base of the head. If you don’t have shirts to cut, simply use old scraps of fabric to glue on the dowel, at the base of the head.

Optional steps:

Make a couple of fancy items to add to your characters! I used felt to make a little witch’s hat and cape. You can use ribbons, buttons, pom poms, etc to glue onto your puppet’s clothes or heads.

The kids loved working on these puppets, I think we’ll keep them around even after Halloween passes. They’re making up their own little stories and using their imaginations to play and be creative. They also loved being involved in the making process. From brushing the gesso onto the balls, to painting and cutting off the shirts, this project is kid friendly. My oldest is learning how to use the glue gun but you be careful with the little ones around as they can get easily burned with the tip of the gun or the melted silicon. Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Natasha K.