Make Your Own Japanese Stick Puppets

Give your kids or students a lesson in theater, social studies, creative expression, and art when you teach them how to make Japanese Stick Puppets. To create a traditional puppet theater you can make a red fox, a yellow cat, a white-faced head, a mean face, and/or a sweet face. Long ago in Japanese history, a greengrocer named Mr. Ichiron made these puppets as a side business venture. He put them on bamboo sticks and sold them in his shop. In time, the stick puppets became so popular that others took up the industry and it still stands today. The stick puppets have the heads of famous actors, folk heroes, warriors, and mythical beings.

To make your own, you will need to gather these materials. Get craft sticks, a fine-tipped brush, acrylic and tempera paints in multiple colors, a jar of water, and a pencil.

To make the salt dough for the puppet heads, you will need 1 cup of salt, 2 cups flour, 4 t. cream of tarter, and 2 cups cold water. Mix all the ingredients in a pot and stir in the cold water, mixing with your hands or a spoon. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until the dough looks like mashed potatoes or a firm ball. The completed dough mixture can be molded and will air dry in 12-36 hours.

Roll a walnut-sized amount of dough into a ball for the puppet heads. Make sure your fingers are moist and mold the face of your puppet with big noses, peaked hairdos and hats, fat hair sides or ear pieces, or what you find appropriate. Use your imagination. Your puppet heads will probably take 12-18 hours to dry at which time you can paint them with your acrylic or tempera. Make the puppet facial features with your pencil. Use bright colors for eye-catching puppets and show-stopping puppet shows. You can create a puppet show box as well to stage your puppet performance. In Asia, the puppeteer is as loved by children as the ice cream man in America.

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