Monday, August 13, 2012

The Power of Puppets!

I just finished a great week at our first church-produced Fine Arts Camp. We called it Create R Kids. Thirty-some kids participated. Our production was called "How Are YOU Growin'?" and included three parables: The Sower, The Talents, and the Laborers in the Field from Matthew, and the kids presented each incorporating a puppet show, dance and music, including playing instruments. Even Tater got to participate, which he really enjoyed. I think he especially liked the drums. This was an effort produced entirely by church members, including the script. Thankfully, we have some wonderfully talented folks at church who contributed to this endeavor.

My example for puppets we made at Fine Arts Camp
I lead the puppet and craft portions of the camp. I was responsible for directing the puppet element for each parable, assisting the kids in scenery and prop construction and decoration, and helping them make their own puppet to take home. Thirty-plus kids meant thirty-plus puppets. That's a lot of puppets!! We used the glorified sock puppet pattern from I've made other puppets using a different technique, but I think I prefer the one we used this time. It's an easy to follow muppet-style puppet pattern. We had the body ready to go to save time (thanks to some ladies with mad cutting and sewing skills), but the kids added arms,  facial features and hair. Oh, I can't imagine how much hot glue we went through!

Boys holding more of the puppets I made for them
I've made several puppets for the boys using this pattern, so I was very familiar with it, and the nice thing about the pattern is that it is so adaptable. Check out the gallery for inspiration. The materials are also readily available. I used anti-pill fleece for the body, felt for the mouth, ping-pong balls and felt pads for the eyes, craft foam for the tongue, maribou boa for the hair, some 1 inch thick foam for the mouth plate and poly-foam stuffing for the arms and head. Basically, I can purchase everything I need for a puppet in a trip to Jo-Ann's and Target. They cost about $5 a piece, depending on materials.

The kids loved making these puppets. There's a reason why Jim Henson's Muppets still resonate with kids after all these years. All the battery powered toys and computer games available can't replicate the delight and creativity puppets inspire. They are a catalyst to expand their imaginations unmatched by many other types of toys, because children can manipulate them: make them speak, give them personalities, interact with them. I loved watching the kids with the puppets as their creations came to life. And I think that several of the shyer kids were able to cope with the fear of being on stage, because they had a "buddy" performing with them.

I'm always amazed how God manages to use our passions and gifts to his glory. I never imagined that my own interest in puppets as a child, my experience using puppets for Lads to Leaders in middle school, the intense investment of time spent working on plays and musicals in high school and my own passion for creating and teaching art would culminate in this opportunity to share Jesus with these precious children. What an opportunity! And hopefully, these kids will use their puppets as an opportunity to share Jesus with their friends and family.

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