Biblical storytelling with children: Puppetry
by Beth Galbreath
One great way to work with children is through puppetry. The children don't have to learn the story by heart themselves in order to act it out while a teacher or older child tells it, and even the shyest can be part of the performance. And teens can use their phones to video the performance and share it with others in the church!
These notes are about shadow puppetry and handle-bag puppetry. These ideas are from the book by Kurt Hunter, Puppets, Kids and Christian Education, Augsburg Fortress 2001.
Unfortunately it may not be available in India, and it may not be in print, but these notes can enable you to start with inexpensive and easy to make puppets.
India has an amazing artistic tradition of shadow puppetry. There is no reason the concept of shadow puppetry can't communicate the Gospel stories, is there? All you need are children, a sheet, a light, cardboard, tape and scissors. It's especially good for stories where things float in the air, such as Pentecost or the Ascension, because if you tape a wire or stick to the back (not the bottom) of the cardboard cutout so that in swings back away from the sheet, the shadow of the handle will not show on the screen.
Handle-bag puppets are great because even the smallest hands can work them, because their faces are simple enough to be re-used for many characters, because you can change their clothes, because they easily handle small props in the story, and because church folks can make them. They aren't available to buy. Here is a video showing how they work.
(This video also demonstrates the use of a drama bag toward the end.)
The body of the puppet is an envelope of fabric measuring 56 cm wide and 38 cm tall, with a hole in the center of the closed edge for the "neck" handle to fit through.
You can make a very simple handle-bag puppet with a stick, something for a head and a piece of fabric for the body. But if you want to make some as shown in the video, here are the patterns from the book. They are made from wood scraps, dowels, fabric scraps, elastic, felt and glue - hot glue works best.
Many Bible stories feature crowds. A flat "crowd" puppet with sock-like handles for a single puppeteer to hold can stand for any number of folks. Here is what it might look like, and head patterns.