I love puppets, and this foam puppet project was a hit with the students. It’s quite advanced for young students but in saying that, my 5 & 6 year olds gave it a go and loved it! The most frustrating part for a couple of them was probably using scissors effectively, their little fingers found it hard to hold scissor handles and cut through the thicker parts of the foam. Even so, everybody finished their Mr or Mrs Banana, and went on to have fun puppeteering them.
This banana puppet project is the creation of John Kennedy, a puppetmaker for Muppets, Disney and Sesame Street to name a few. His fab book is called Puppet Mania! If you love puppet making, then you will love this book.
For the students to make their bananas, I bought soft density foam sheet from AnyFoam Ltd. This foam was much nicer than the old discoloured foam I used for my demonstration model. I began the project talking about facial expressions and how important they are.
The students looked at illustrated expressions and practised drawing their own. This was followed by them designing their banana with an expression of somekind. These were painted, cut out and stuck on a groovy painted background.
Each student was given a small piece of foam, we used this to practice cutting techniques before going on to the making of the main puppet. (Some of these also ended up being puppets in their own right, one student made a doughnut puppet with painted hundreds & thousands on it, it looked so good).
To begin the puppet making, the students traced around a template from the book. I had a selection of different sized scissors to suit different sized hands. I explained how to cut the foam at every stage as sometimes you need to make small snips and other times the blades needed to chomp their way throught the foam.
I demonstrated how to snip slivers of foam away to help sculpt the banana’s pointy head and body.
Careful explaining about snipping small amounts of foam away from the facial area to create a nose proved challenging, but with guidance the children managed to form noses. Drawing a roundish nose shape helped some children decide where to cut.
The same went for the eye sockets, drawing two diamond shapes helped enormously. Two snips of the scissor blades were angled into the foam to form a diamond shape cavity. Eyebrows were sculpted too.
The bananas were painted using poster paint. Toungues were cut from felt and eyes were made from pom poms.
To make the mouth open and close, two small snips were made in the back of the puppet, enough for the child’s thumb and forefinger to fit. Place the snips approx 9cms apart (this distance depends on size of child’s hand and so will vary).
Since this project finished around Christmas time, we made them Santa hats.
I wished that we had had enough time to create a puppet show, but it was nearly the end of term and the puppets were taken home before we had the chance to put something together.