photo from here
A few weeks ago, my kids and I watched the documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey and BOOM another thread was added to the loom (that I seem to keep talking about) of our creative explorations. I think it is important to note that my kids are not naturally Elmo fans. They did not grow up watching that much Sesame Street, so their interest in this film was all about the puppetry and the story of Kevin Clash's life.
Clash's story of dreaming big, working hard and not being swayed by detractors led him to become one of the most successful puppeteers working today. His friendships with Kermit Love, Jim Henson, and Frank Oz helped him gain invaluable experience from a young age. It is hard to image a kid watching this and not getting inspired and fired up to follow their passion - no matter what it is.
As soon as the credits were rolling, my kids immediately started sewing puppets. In fact, if you are going to watch this with your children, go ahead and have some supplies ready!
My daughter sewed a muppet, making the eyes from polymer clay and adding a rod for the tail.
One son used a glove (stock up at Target - they are only a dollar!) to make a plant that comes alive and bites you.
Another son made an "Animal" inspired, drum playing creature.
Spoon and styrofoam puppets followed, each with names and back stories. We are looking forward to getting some craft foam next time we are at the fabric store to see what we can do with that.
Beyond just making puppets and writing some simple stories, we were connecting all sorts of other interesting cultural bits. We read about Jim Henson and Frank Oz and loved learning the fact that Oz does the voice for both Miss Piggy and Yoda.
We have seen several Muppet movies and Fraggle Rock, but are now interested in checking out Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.
And we would love to make one of these Muppets at FAO Swartz.!
This video of Jim Henson making puppets from things one can find around the house was funny and inspiring.
Looking back, it seems like we have always been making puppets and little puppet theaters. Shadow and hand puppets, paper bag puppets, cereal box puppet theaters and marionettes - all seem to offer great methods for children to explore character, emotions, story telling and bravado. As my kids get older, I hope they continue to explore this form of expression as it seems like such a fertile medium for creativity.
Have you made puppets and puppet shows with your kids?