Puppet ideas

Puppetry is the art of bringing inanimate objects to life. Children do this instinctively, when they pick up an action figure-or a spoon, or a piece of broccoli and give it voice and movement. It can be a powerful tool for stimulating the imagination and a very exciting way to explore a wide range of cross curricular themes with your class.

Making puppets with children should always lead to lots of play and story making. Allow the children the time and space to animate what they’ve made and try and provide exciting settings and places for the playing to happen in. Don’t be shy about operating puppets for and with your class as well  A discussion beforehand about you all knowing that its pretend might help but don’t underestimate the power they hold with your class!

Finger puppets

Make simple finger puppets using cut up children’s gloves and stick on shapes with your class let them play at a retelling of the story in their own words.

The story can include narration, the children making up their own descriptions, and deciding for themselves what they think the characters would say.

The pupils could be encouraged to think about how their character looks, what kind of voice they might have for each different animal.

Children could work in pairs to play out the story together or the story could be performed on a table with different groups being responsible for different scenes of the play.

Shadow puppets

Here are some simple ideas you might want to try out in your classroom.  These techniques can be used:

  • By you in the telling of established stories
  • By your class in recreating moments from their favourite stories
  • By you and your class to create new stories

Use an overhead projector and white sheet stretched or hung to create the light source and screen.

Experiment with the following to create images on the screen:

  • Everyday objects, such as beads, string, plastic bottles. Each object has an inherent quality of movement, see if you can find it. Experiment with lifting them closer to the light source.
  • Coloured cellophane. Overlay different colours. Use them to suggest the quality of water
  • Sand. If possible place this on a Perspex sheet / Pyrex tray so as not to scratch the screen of the projector. Roll the sand in an even thin layer and then draw with a slightly wet finger. This could be used to create the outline of buildings such as a castle or palace, or to create the skyline to an ancient city.
  • Fingers. Use your fingers as puppets. Move them against the screen of the projector. Experiment with different types of finger movement to suggest different characteristics.
  • People. Stand between the projector and white sheet. The closer you get to the projector the larger your shadow will be.  For a more expressive outline always work in profile. Experiment with the different shapes and sizes you can get your shadow to make.
  • Puppets. To create simple puppets, use pipe cleaners or wire to make simple figures of people.  Fill in the gaps with coloured cellophane.  Practice moving them on the screen of the projector. Provide voices for the characters. Allow them to be hot seated by the class.
  • Paper. Experiment with cutting and ripping paper and placing on the screen.  Use to create environments such as a cave.

Top tip: Try using your IWB for shadow play. Try ‘found’ objects from the classroom as well as 2D ’puppet’ cutouts.

Simple shape puppets

Give the children paper bags or paper plates and ask them to create a face on one side using a selection of pre cut shapes such as circles, triangles and squares. They can use the shapes to represent the features of the animal’s faces. One side could be the hen and the other could become another animal in the Little Red Hen story. Attach a lolly stick, or similar to the back of the plate near the bottom and you have a simple hand held animal puppet/mask.

Letter puppets

Draw and then cut out a large letter h on stiff paper or card.  Stick two yellow triangles at the top of the stalk to be a beak two circles one slightly larger white one glued to the top near the beak glue a smaller black circle in it to make the eye. A series of red triangles can be stuck in an arc above the eye for the comb. You now have a h for hen.

Try doing the same with C for cat, M for mouse, p for pig and d for dog.

1. You will need paper cut out shapes of varying sizes and colours, triangles, circles squares etc.
2. Glue
3. A paper plate or bag
4. Lolly sticks or similar
5. Sticky tape


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Recipes to try with your class

Cooking with your class is a great way to give them a practical understanding of where food comes from, different cultural heritages and following instructions. Hopefully the results will taste so nice they will want to do more! Ask parents to suggest recipes from home or if someone is willing ask a parent to come in and demonstrate. Link the cooking into a theme or story that you are working with already. The cooking you chose to do could highlight work on other cultures, religious education, where food comes from and healthy eating.

Baking Bread

Bread is a common staple food in nearly all cultures and it is easy to make different types and shapes of simple breads with children. It is often a crucial part of religious ceremonies like Passover or Communion or Ramadan. You could make special bread with your class that is linked to a fictional or religious story.

There are many recipes available on the internet and supermarkets stock quick and easy bread mixes which just require the addition of water. There are wheat and gluten free flours available as well as things like Ciabatta and Brioche mixes that you might want to try with your class.

About the most simple is unleavened bread as children can do much of the process with the exception of final cooking.


Unleavened Bread

Add a pinch of salt to a cup of plain white flour. Mix and add warm water gradually to make smooth dough (too sticky? Add a little more flour, not smooth enough add a little more water).  Leave the dough to rest for about half an hour (just about enough time for a story or two).  Roll out the dough using a rolling pin or flatten it with hands on a clean surface, lightly sprinkle the surface with flour to stop the dough sticking. Make into a roughly circular shape about the size of a tea plate. Cook under a hot grill until it begins to have blisters, flip and do the other side or cook in a conventional oven for about 20 minutes on gas mark 5.


Other recipes you could try with your class

Basic Biscuit Recipe

175g/6oz Plain Flour
100g/4oz Butter or Margarine
50g/2oz Caster Sugar

  • Pre-heat oven to 150°C/300°F Gas 2
  • Cream the butter or margarine and caster sugar together until they are light and fluffy.
  • Stir in the flour and once mixed knead the dough together until it forms a ball, add a sprinkle of flour if the dough is at all sticky.
  • Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 5mm thick.
  • Cut out the dough using your chosen cutter.
  • Place the biscuits on a floured baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Let the biscuits cool on a wire tray.


Basic Pancake Batter

4oz (100g) Plain Flour
Pinch of salt
1 Large egg
½ pint (10 fl oz)(275 ml) milk

Sift the flour and the salt into a large bowl. Make a hollow in the centre of the flour and drop in the slightly beaten egg and half the milk. Start mixing the flour into the liquid preferably using a whisk; you can use a spoon or a fork. Make sure to incorporate all the flour, once this is done, pour in the rest of the milk and whisk until the mixture has the consistency of thin cream.

Using a heavy- based shallow frying pan, heat a little lard, just enough to grease the pan so that the pancake batter doesn’t stick. The pan should be quite hot before you pour the batter in. Pour in enough batter to make a thin film over the base of the pan, tilting the pan in all directions will help to get an even thickness. The underside of the pancake should be golden brown in less than a minute; you can adjust the heat to get this just right. Flip the pancake over using a spatula or if you’re brave toss the pancake in the air by flicking your wrist as you move the pan away. Cook the other side of the pancake until golden brown.

Pancakes can be served in many different ways, the simplest way is to turn the pancake out onto a plate with kitchen roll on that has been sprinkled with sugar. Sprinkle more sugar and  squeeze some lemon juice on the top of the pancake and either roll or fold. You can also add a spoonful of jam before folding.


Chocolate Nests

Block of cooking chocolate (Milk or Plain)
Shredded Wheat
Sugar Coated mini eggs
Small cake paper cases

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. The chocolate now needs to melt so you can either put the bowl in a low oven, or rest the bowl over another bowl of hot water, and leave until all the chocolate has melted.

Once melted give the chocolate a good stir and start to add some of the crumbled Shredded Wheat, add enough to give a twiggy effect to the chocolate.

Spoon enough of the mixture into one of the paper cases to make a nest shape, leaving a hollow in the middle, big enough to place about 4 mini eggs in. You can either put the eggs in straight away and they will stick to the hardening chocolate or wait until the nest has set. Remove the nest from the paper case when the nest is finished.

Here is a video with captions (but no sound) of a Year 9 class baking different bread shapes that you might like to try with your class.

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Playing with food

In The Little Red Hen we talk about the process of growing wheat, turning it into flour and baking bread. We encourage the children to get their hands on the grain, the flour and dough. It would be possible to do this with other food stuffs too as a way of exploring textures and consistencies. They can model in dough, draw in flour, finger paint in ketchup -simply explore the qualities of the substances or do more structured activity as they get older like weighing or measuring liquids. This helps child development in terms of vocabulary around different actions like squash or squeeze, fine motor skills and encouragement of mark making, and can stimulate conversations about how where our food comes from.

Good food to play with might include

Rice, pasta, spaghetti, flour, icing sugar, oats, salt, coffee, tea leaves, custard sauces, lentils, pulses

The addition of some simple basic tools can further enhance the exploration a basic tool kit might include:

Rolling pin, baking tray (for showing finished items), Plastic knives and forks for creating patterns, Plastic scissors, Garlic press, straws (for joining sections together) potato masher,  spatulas, pastry cutters ( I have a wooden wheel  that makes great zig- zag patterns)

Take care with regard to allergies, some flours have nut products in them, but it is possible to find wheat and gluten free products and care should be taken around hot and sharp objects


Modelling dough

Play dough can be bought or made at home relatively cheaply and the children can help to make the dough. Once made the only limitation on what can be done with the dough is the imagination. You can air dry your finished model or bake in a hot oven until hard and when cooled paint and varnish it.

Un-used dough should keep for some time in an air tight container in the fridge.

Why not try making farm animals or plates full of favourite foods. Join different shapes together with short lengths of straw or string if you put holes in the dough before it dries, to make models that move.

You could even make a set of salt dough dominoes and use them in a variety of maths based activities.


Here are some dough recipes which can be made with children of all ages.

Basic salt dough recipe
2 parts flour
1 part salt

Mix the flour and salt add water gradually until desired dough consistency is reached (too sticky? Add a little more flour, not smooth enough add a little more water) you can add food colouring, scent, glitter etc to the dough (don’t forget to check for allergies first).

Or you could try to following variants on the theme.


Salt Dough Recipe

16 Tablespoons of Plain White Flour
8 Tablespoons of Salt
16 Tablespoons of cold water

Mix the flour and the salt together and then stir in the water.  Knead the dough together adding small drops of extra water if necessary to make a smooth but not sticky dough. Once the dough has come together turn it out onto a flat surface and continue to knead it for about 10 minutes by which time the dough should be warm, soft and pliable.


Playdough Recipe

2 Cups of Plain Flour
½ Cup of Salt
1 Cup of water (with added colouring of your choice)
1 Tablespoon of cooking oil
1 Tablespoon of Hand Lotion

Mix flour and salt together add hand lotion, oil and water. Mix well and knead until dough is smooth.
(This is pliable pleasant-smelling dough which keeps well)


Drawing in flour

Sprinkle a layer of flour into a shallow seed tray or similar and spread it evenly. Use this to draw pictures, shapes, mathematical symbols or sums with your fingers. Then simply rub them out and start again.


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Growing things

Here are some ideas for growing things with your class

Pips and seeds

A fruit is essentially an edible seed packet! Normally we eat the flesh and throw away the seed, yet saving the seed and nurturing it into life is the perfect opportunity for children to see at first hand the life cycle of plants from fruit to plant. Even if our climate is not suitable for exotic plants outside they should grow well on a warm classroom window ledge.

Good seeds and pips to try include  apple, avocado, date, lemon, mango, orange, papaya, passion fruit. How about getting the children to save the seeds from their fruit at snack time? Before planting the children could compare the types of seed. Ask them to look at the size, texture, and shape. You could talk about the different ways that seeds are dispersed (such as wind dispersing dandelions and sycamore, falling and rolling dispersing acorns and conkers etc).

Here is an animated video that looks at seed dispersal and features a bird that Poos!


How to grow oranges and lemons

  1. Soak the pips in water overnight. Plant them in small pot of compost to a depth of 4cm.
  2. Water the compost. For the seeds to germinate they will need frequent watering and a temperature of 25-32 degrees centigrade.
  3. It will take several years of careful nurturing to grow an orange or lemon tree, but it is possible. Good luck!

This is the same principle with sunflowers, beans and peas.

You don’t even need soil:

  1. Roll some paper or card into a tube shape and put it in a glass jar
  2. Poke a seed, that has soaked overnight, between the paper and the side of the jar so that it rests about half way down (broad beans are a good size for this)
  3. Carefully add a little water and place on a sunny window sill
  4. Check and top up with water regularly
  5. After a few days roots should start to grow


Grow an animal cress head

You will need:

  • A small empty yoghurt pot or similar (a carefully scraped out egg shell from a boiled egg can be used or a hollowed out potato)
  • Cotton wool
  • Cress seeds
  • Water

Decorate the container with a face of a cat, rat, pig, hen or any other farmyard animal you choose by sticking on simple cut out shapes, a lot can be done with squares, triangles and circles. Put enough cotton wool inside to fill the pot and sprinkle with cress seeds.

Water well and place in a warm light spot don’t forget to moisten with water every few days. The seeds should begin to grow within a couple of days. When the hair or fur is long enough give the head a trim and enjoy the cress on a tasty sandwich.



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