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Pull a few strings: Making a simple marionette

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Role-play is a good learning tool for small children. It stimulates their imagination and improves social skills by encouraging friendship and learning how to take turns. It is also a great way to express their emotions. Dressing up is one way, but puppeteering is a lot of fun too, especially when they can make their own marionette. It's easier than you think. By the time you're done, your kids can give Gepetto a run for his money. Parents, to avoid the risk of unexpectedly adding a kid named Pinocchio to the family, we will be making a puppy marionette. Ready to get started?

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What you need:
-empty paper roll
-cardboard circles (double up if too light)
-wooden tongue depressors
-feather boa
-3"-4" wide strip of batting
-felt
-movable eyes and a button
-glue (hot or craft)
-scissors
-string

How to:

Puppy:

Glue the batting partly into the tube and fold over to form a head. Cover the tube and head with a strip of the feather boa starting from the neck, over the center of the head and along the 'spine'. Continue with two more strips on the sides always running parallel to the length of the tube. The feather or fluff is forgiving and this should be enough to cover the cardboard tube.
Cut four 4"-5" long strips of boa and glue one end to center of a cardboard circle. Repeat with the rest. These will be the legs. Once dry, glue the 'legs' discreetly onto the sides of the puppet. Make sure to separate feathers to glue the leg directly onto the cardboard roll, then fluff them back up. Set aside.
Cut a rectangular piece of felt and glue the movable eye to one short end. Once set, fold over the other end slightly over the eye to form eyelids. Affix eyes onto the face. Different angles will give your puppet a distinct expression, so decide how you would like your dog to look. Is it sleepy, happy, or grumpy?
Attach the button on the center of the face for the nose. Cut a piece of pink or red felt in the shape of a tongue and stick underneath the nose. Lastly, add a little strip of boa to the dog's hindquarters for a tail and another across the head for long, droopy ears.

Controls:

Glue two sets of two tongue depressors into a cross. Once dry, use the tip of an exacto blade or a push pin to bore a hole into each end. Be careful not to split the board.
Measure the length of string by letting your child hold the wooden controls. Cut and thread through each hole on the board. Tie a knot at the end and apply a dab of glue to keep it in place.
Connect a string to the head and two front feet (front end of vertical control to head and two ends of horizontal for each front foot). Do the same with the hind feet and the torso or body. Let all glue connections dry.
Cue the lights! Your little dog marionette is ready for its first theater production.

Literature LIVE! Austin Public Library's very own puppetry and storytelling troupe has one more show through April 23rd at your neighborhood library. Click here to learn more about the program and here for the schedule of shows. It's a great source of inspiration for this project. Be sure to stick around after their show and they will show the kids the many different types of puppets they use and how they made them.

Still want to see more amazing puppetry? The War Horse is showing at the Bass Concert Hall from May 6 through May 11. The horses come to life as puppeteers control these larger-than-life puppets. Click here for more information, see photos of the impressive 'puppets', and to buy tickets. (Use discretion to decide at what age children should be brought to a full-length theater production.)

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Follow her blog Things My Mother Didn't Tell Me About Motherhood in which she talks about her parenting adventures and misadventures.

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