Paper Bag Puppets: Using Art to Inspire Story-writing and Puppetry

Who would have thought that something as humble, humdrum, and boilerplate-like as a brown paper bag could fascinate a human brain, entertain it for days together and hold it under a spell?

Well, that’s what happened to us. When we faced a challenge by my blogger friend – Rachelle at Tinkerlab – to create something creative from an everyday brown paper bag, it got our minds into a whirlwind!

We have brainstormed a dozen more things since then and created a few in the past few weeks.

I shared one of them last week – my brown paper bag heart luminaries. But other than that – Pari made quite a few stuff – paper bag journals, paper bag snowflakes, paper bag pizzas, paper bag hearts!

And today – as the Paper bag creative challenge goes live, I present Pari’s paper bag puppets to you and share how this art project intersected and overlapped with an excellent literacy exercise – story-writing. The two synchronized beautifully and led to yet another mode of creative learning – a puppet show and storytelling!

Paper bag puppets are not a new idea. You google them and will find dozens of images. But, the idea we’ve applied is quite interesting. And I thank The chocolate Muffin Tree for the inspiration. They made their Fandango puppets inspired by the Fandango commercials.

When I saw those images, I knew that Pari would be excited by such a fun project. Not just that, I spied great potential in it for some passionate writing and storytelling. And it turned out bang-on.

Our Creative Process 

Before she started making her puppets, I asked Pari if she’d like to discuss the plot or story on which her puppets would be based. She was more than excited.

I listened to her initial story ideas, prodded here and there, asked a few questions – taking clues from which – she molded, re-molded, and finally went off to her table to jot her ideas down.

Satisfied, she approached me and declared that she would want to make a Prince and Princess as her puppets. In her story, the Princess strolls by the riverside, finding a glass bottle with a message inside. When she uncorks the bottle and reads the message, a prince emerges.

She would end her story here when I prodded her to continue. How about introducing some twists? I told her. What happens after the Prince comes out? How did he get into the bottle in the first place? What was unique about the message?

After all these questions, she introduced another character – a Witch! She adds that the Witch made him disappear into the bottle. But, even when the Prince managed to come out, he was scared that the Witch might play her evil trick again.

Considering this, she introduced an owl. This owl – owned by the Princess, will fly and sit on the Witch’s head. As soon as the owl perches on her head, she will lose all her black magic and instead will be blessed by divine magic. Then on, she will go about doing only good things to people. And the Prince and Princess stay together – happily ever after!

The story came first, and then the puppets.

Now that she knows the characters for her Puppets – or should I say – the Fandango puppets – she figured out how to create the look. Since Fandango Puppets are made using waste household items (besides the two primary raw material – paper bags and glue), our junk cabinet was to be our go-to resource.

Some of the things we spied in our junk cabinet:

  • Fabric scraps from the tailor shop (yeah, I shamelessly go about collecting these rags)
  • Bottle caps/lids
  • Yarn
  • Hair bands
  • Broken hair clips
  • Expired pasta/noddles/beans
  • Empty Medicine strips
  • Last remnants of crayons
  • Caps of waste pens/sketch pens/sharpies
  • Old sharpeners

Pari was pretty sure she wanted her Princess dressed all pink. This part was fun and easy for her.

Due to being under hard water in my terracotta pot, the glass beads that had gone white from the underside were used as lovely blue eyes for the Princess. She was given a cute button nose and painted blush on her cheeks. She got a golden-painted necklace and pouty pink lips (I cut them up and pair-pasted them). The lips seem to be a prominent feature of all Fandango puppets.

Creating the look for the Prince with those household items was not so easy. More so – his eyes!

No matter what she used – caps, marbles, buttons- he looked monstrous or animal-lish!

Finally, something seemed to click. I suggested that she create some eyebrows to make him look decent. The eyebrows were made out of strings of the paper bag itself!

The Witch was easy to create too.

Pari spelled out the look she wanted before she even started – long piercing eyes, long nose, toothy grin, coarse, unruly hair, purple attire, and a broom in her hand (she did not get around to adding the broom as her friends poured in and she ran away to play).

The owl was made by an older friend of Pari – Mitali, who’s about 15. She used expired pasta and colored them.

I gave her some paper strip beads (which Pari had made a long time ago) that she used as the owl’s head.

Once we had the puppets, we rehearsed for the upcoming puppet show. We plan to do it sometime next week with Pari’s friends chipping in too! We’ll be discussing the script this week – for the puppet show.

I’ll keep you posted about it.

This was a fun and creative mix of art, literacy, and drama! It kept Pari busy for 3-4 days! And I can vouch we will make many more of these puppets for storytelling and drama.

Here are some more examples of how art and literacy can be integrated to enrich learning for our children:

  • Art and Poetry
  • Autobiography with cues from personal photos
  • Adding a script to photos of wild animals
  • A movie based on Storybook
  • A gratitude Art Journal
  • Self Portrait with Words

If you’d like to make Fandango puppets, go ahead and try, for it’s a process-oriented, open-ended art/craft that will fuel the child’s imagination.

Or,  I recommend this game that lets you create your Fandango puppets online. Pari and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Tinkerlab’s creative challenge is seeing participation from around the world!

You can participate too!

If you have created something with a paper bag or plan to create one soon, please add your post or photo below in the link. There’s a Pinterest contest happening around it, too! You will be entered into the contest to win some attractive goodies.

Leave a Comment