I think I’ve said before that every once in a while a project comes around that totally rocks and all the kids I teach love as well as my own kids. Well, this is that project. If you have kids age 3-6, making robot puppets with tinker trays is a total home run. They loved this! I did it with every one of my art classes and everyone had a great time. You can do this from simple to more advanced. It’s awesome for boys and girls. And, in addition to the fun of making the puppets, you can play with them again and again.
Here’s a list of all the materials you’ll need for your robots. Feel free to substitute anything out. As long as you have paper, some brads and a stick of some kind you’re pretty much good to go, but if you want to follow what we did here you go.
a tube or dowel of some kind. (we used the white tubes around wire hangers which you can score for free from most dry cleaners)
As an art teacher I have a lot of scrap art paper laying around. Drawings that never made it to the wall. Large watercolor and pastel paintings that never got finished. Lots of random odds and ends I can’t throw away. Well, that stuff is actually a treasure trove for puppet making and all sorts of art activities. Cut it up into squares, rectangles and strips and you’ve got yourself a whole robot body. I store it in a shoe box and bust it out for different projects. So all the cool paper in the robots was recycled from art projects of the past.
These are the tinker trays I set up of all the fun things you can add to your robot as you make him…or her…or it. I love working with tinker trays so much I’ve written two posts about how to use tinker trays. Here’s one that’s a great intro to tinker trays and here’s another that explains how to use tinker trays from start to finish and gives lots of activities to try. Anyway, tinker trays are awesome and kids love them. They get to make their own decisions with interesting and engaging materials and ain’t nothin wrong with that.
Here are the steps. For the first class we made the robots first and then added all the details. Then I tried making each body part separately and assembling and liked that better. It works either way though.
Pick a shape for the head. If you have pre cut shapes for the kids to chose from, great. If not, you can cut a square or rectangle to about 5×5. It doesn’t have to be exact. If it is already painted, great. If not, you can use oil pastels to add lots of color marks and then paint over it with watercolors. The watercolors will wash right over the oil pastels for a really cool affect. However you do it, once the background of your head is ready, glue on any details you want from your tinker tray. You can draw in details as well. We made up all kinds of special powers that each button has.
Pick a body and repeat the same ideas from step 1. Once you have the body details the way you want, you can let them dry and then glue the head to the body.
Pick out arms and legs and add any details you want as well.
Once you’ve added all your details you’re going to construct your robot, which means punching holes with a whole puncher wherever you want to add a body part and attaching that arm or leg with a brad. I used this hole puncher which is one of my favorite crafting tools. It puts a small punch in the paper that is just right for the brad. A regular hole puncher will work well as long as your brad heads are on the larger side. You can always use a toothpick or skewer or something to poke a hole too, if you don’t have a hole punch. If you don’t have brads you can glue everything instead. The brads are great because you can move the arms and legs after you secure them. The kids love that part.
When your robot is done, it’s time to turn it over and add the tube or stick or dowel to hold it. I just taped it to the back with a lot of duct tape to secure it. You can also glue it and let it sit over night.
Now here comes the really fun part.
THE PUPPET SHOW!
We turned a table on it’s side and made a puppet show poster and we were off and running. All the kids waited in line and watched each other’s shows. It was so cute. They were all really animated and silly and from what I heard from the parents, the shows continued throughout the week.
This project was so great I repeated it week after week with all my classes. The puppets got more and more funky as the week continued. And more and more pink. It’s pretty interesting to see the boys take on the robots vs. the girls. In these groups, the girls want pink and the boys want lots of blue and red super power buttons.
So that’s how you make robot puppets. You can make all kinds of puppets this way, not just robots. I’d love to make family puppets. Maybe we’ll do mini versions next time. Either way, this was so much fun and I hope you’re inspired to give it a try. Happy puppet making and thanks for reading along! xo Meri