Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Papier Mâché - Finger Puppets

The children use papier-mâché pulp to create tiny-sized puppets for their fingers. For ages 6 to 9. Plan 3 sessions.

  • Working with papier mâché pulp
  • Creating three-dimensional forms
  • Developing small motor skills
papier mâché pulp, three-dimensional, puppet dress

  • Papier mâché pulpone small lemon-sized ball for each child (see recipe below)
  • Newspapers for making pulp and covering work area
  • Wheat pastenon-toxic (I use PlayBox Wheat Paste.)
  • Blender for making pulp
  • Non-hardening modeling clay for stands to support puppet heads while working
  • Tempera paints
  • Small paint brushes
  • Containers of water for rinsing brushes
  • Sponges for drying brushes
  • Scraps of fabric cut into pieces 2½ by 4½ inches for puppet dresses 
  • Access to a sewing machine to sew the dresses
  • Adornments such as yarn, ribbon, and cotton balls 
  • White craft glue
  • Brushes for applying the glue
  • Scissors
  • Paper clips and small pieces of scrap paper
  • Water-based polyurethane
  • Nontoxic black permanent markers (Faber-Castell markers are odorless), watercolor markers and paper for drawing completed puppets (optional)
Note: To prepare papier mâché pulp, rip newspapers into roughly one-inch pieces, cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for an hour. Turn off the heat and let sit overnight. Put wet newspaper and water into a blender in small batches to make a mash. Squeeze out excess water. Mix wheat paste to a very thick consistency. With your hands, blend enough of the wheat paste into the newspaper to produce pulp the consistency of stiff mashed potatoes. Press the pulp between your fingers to work out any lumps. Two full sheets of newspaper, approximately 23 x 27 inches, will make enough pulp for three to four puppet heads with hats. The pulp can be stored in a refrigerator for several days.

First Session
  • Prepare papier mâché pulp and set out one small lemon-sized ball for each child, plus extra.
  • Cover work area with newspaper.
  • Set out the modeling clay.
  • Write the children’s names on small pieces of paper for name tags.
How to Begin
  • Explain to the children that, in the next several sessions, they will be making puppets for their fingers. In this session, they will be forming the puppet heads using papier mâché pulp which is a combination of newspapers and paste that has been mixed in a blender. The clay-like pulp becomes very hard when it dries.
  • First, demonstrate how to make a stand for building the puppet head. Using the modeling clay, roll a six-inch coil that is slightly thicker than the index finger on which the puppet will be worn. Turn one end of the coil upwards to form a “finger”, or stand, to build the puppet on. Wrap the opposite end around the base of the coil for support.
  • Make a puppet head by rolling a small ball of pulp and pressing it onto the stand, creating a hole about one inch deep. This will form the finger hole for the puppet.
  • Working with the head on the stand, pinch the pulp to form a three-dimensional nose that stands out from the head. Explain to the children that they can make additions such as hats with the pulp, but they need to be attached while the pulp is still wet. Hair can either be made with the pulp or yarn can be glued on after the pulp dries. 
  • When the heads are completed, smooth the pulp. Explain that once the pulp dries, it cannot be changed.
  • Have the children make the stands slightly larger than their index fingers, build the puppet heads, smooth the pulp, and place their name tags on the stands.
Note:  Dry the puppet heads on the stands to keep the finger holes from shrinking.

Second Session 
  • Set out the dried puppet heads on their stands.
  • Set out tempera paints, containers of water, sponges, and small brushes.
  • Display an array of cut fabrics for the puppet dresses.
  • Set out paper clips and name tags.
How to Begin
  • In this session, the children will be painting the finger puppets and choosing fabric for the dresses. Explain that the part of the puppet that hides the user’s finger is referred to as the puppet dress.
  • Demonstrate how to paint the rough surface of papier mâché by gently dabbing the paint into the cracks. Using a base color such as the skin, the children should paint the front of the puppet head first so that it can dry enough to put on the facial features later. Then they should paint the back of the head. (Children who are using yarn for the hair should still paint the whole head with a skin color.)  While waiting for the first layer of paint to dry, the children can choose which of the cut-fabric pieces they’d like to use for their puppet dresses and attach their names to the fabric with paper clips.
  • The children should then return to their puppet heads to paint on the details. Explain that to paint the tiny facial features on the small heads, they should dip only the tips of the brushes into the paint.
  • Have the children paint the puppet heads and choose their fabric.
Note:  Use a sewing machine to sew the longer side of each puppet dress together to form a tube. Have an adult apply a coating of polyurethane on the dried heads.

Third Session
  • Set out the puppet heads with the stands, dresses, and adornments for decorating.
  • Set out white glue, brushes for glue, and scissors.
  • Cover work area to be used for gluing with newspaper.
  • If doing optional drawings, set out black permanent markers, colored watercolor markers, and paper.
How to Begin
  • In this session, the children will be gluing on the puppet dresses and adding adornments.
  • Show the children how to attach their puppet dresses. Apply white glue around the inside rim of the head and then attach the dress, gathering as necessary to make it fit. Put the head back on the stand to dry. This will press the fabric tightly against the rim of the head so the hole will not become too small.
  • After attaching the dresses, the children can glue on adornments to decorate their puppets.
  • Have the children who finish early draw their puppets with black markers and color them with watercolor markers, duplicating the puppets as closely as possible.
  • Newspapers that are printed with vegetable inks make more flexible pulp.
  • Newspapers tear easily when ripped vertically.
  • Thickened white liquid glue can be substituted for the wheat paste, but because of its stickiness, it is more difficult to work with. 
  • The paste in the papier mâché is usually sufficient to hold the additions made with pulp. When adding larger parts on the sides of the heads where there is no support, such as the ears and trunk on the elephant below, use some additional white glue.
  • If a piece of pulp falls off after drying, it can be reattached with white glue.
  • Since the dresses are glued to the inside rim of the puppet heads, use light-weight cotton fabric to keep from overfilling the finger holes.
  • The extra preparation for this project is rewarded by the joy that the children take in their puppets.

  • Have the children introduce their puppets by telling something about them.
  • This is a wonderful opportunity for a spontaneous puppet show.
What the children might say...
  • This stuff is gross.
  • I can’t make noses. This one is way too big.
  • I need a big hat for my wizard.
  • Why do I need to paint the whole head when I am going to glue on yarn later? 
What you might say...
  • Papier mâché pulp is only newspaper and glue and washes off easily when you are finished working. You will be surprised at all the wonderful things that you can make with it.
  • Since the puppet heads are so small, sometimes it is easier to pinch the pulp to make a nose.
  • If your puppet needs a hat, it is best to make it with the pulp and attach it while the pulp is still wet.
  • You need to paint the whole head because the yarn might not completely cover the back of the head.
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