Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Outreach/Puppetry

South Pacific Division
See also Puppetry - Advanced
Skill Level 2
Year of Introduction: Unknown

0. Introduction


Puppets have been used for centuries to communicate messages to people everywhere. Many countries have contributed to the craft. Stories were often told through puppetry in religious ceremonies when books were not available.

The great thing about puppetry is its infinite variety. It’s a form of theatre where “actors” can vary from finger length to more than life-size. One human may operate two or more puppets, or two may be needed to handle a single puppet.

A puppet does not have a brain, heart, lungs, voice or ears of its own, so it is the puppeteer who needs to keep it thinking, living, breathing, speaking and listening.

Puppets can be whatever you want them to be by taking on different character traits and personalities.

A piece of foam or fabric can “come alive” and be an attention getting, believable character and can also be a great method of teaching and entertaining all age groups.

BEFORE YOU START Puppet Care Treat your puppets as fragile. Pack them away after performing, as others may not care for them as well as you would.

Remove any rods before packing.

Food, drink and puppets don’t mix.

Use lightweight cotton gloves.

Resources Keep a file of puppetry information, suppliers, performances, scripts and things that “worked” or didn’t.

NOTE: As puppets don’t have “souls”, many Christian puppeteers prefer their puppets, not to receive salvation or pray. There are many views on what is suitable in a church setting, so be sensitive to others feelings in your planning. It may be also advisable not to have a puppet play the part of God or Jesus.

To be an effective puppeteer, keep working on the basic skills until they become second nature. Lack of preparation and poor skills will produce ineffective performance and negative views on puppetry as a ministry tool.

Remember: Practice, practice, practice and in your spare time, practice some more!

1. Name at least five types of puppets and explain how they are operated.


Although there are many types to choose from, with each having its own special qualities and challengers, using a 'moving mouth' style of puppet is very effective.

Finger Puppet


A simple type of puppet usually made with a tube that fits over your finger.

Hand Puppet


This style of puppet is also known as a Glove puppet. If the puppet has a movable mouth then the thumb goes in the lower jaw and the 4 fingers form the upper part of the mouth.

String Puppet (Marionette)


Usually controlled by eight or more strings from above; a form of puppetry that requires a lot of practice.

Rod Puppet


Manipulated by wire or rods attached to hands and neck. Can be controlled from above or below.

Shadow Puppet


These are flat figures that cast a shadow between a light and a screen.

Hand and Rod Puppet


Puppeteers hand moves the mouth. Arms are operated with rods attached to hands. Can be full or half body size.

Hand and Glove Puppet


Similar to hand and rod style, except the puppeteers gloved hands become the puppet's hands making handling objects easy.

Monster Style Puppet


Usually large and furry and can be operated by one or two puppeteers. One controls on arm, the head, mouth and voice. The other puppeteer controls the other arm. It requires coordination but is very effective. Often referred to, wrongly, as a MUPPET style of puppet. (The word Muppet is legally trademarked).

Ventriloquist Figure


Has a slotted mouth that is moved by a trigger. Eyes and eyebrows can also be manipulated. Operator appears to 'throw' voice.

Junk Puppet


Just about anything can be transformed into a puppet. Boxes, socks, paper plates, tubes, shoes, mops, hats etc. Just pick up an object and imagine what it can become.

2. Make one puppet and obtain (or make) two others. At least one puppet must have a “moving mouth” and one must be an animal.


Before you make (or buy) your puppets, you should have an idea of what the puppet show is going to be about, and the type of puppets you will use. It is generally a good idea to write a script first, and then develop the puppets needed for the script. If you will be performing for a multi-cultural audience, you might consider using animal characters instead of human characters. People of any race can identify with an animal more easily than they can with a human character belonging to a different race.

There are many types of puppets to choose from, and the choice will depend on the skill of the puppet maker as well as the skill of the puppeteer. Because they are generally easier to build and work with, we will present only the sock puppet. Other puppet types include hand puppets, rod puppets, shadow puppets, human puppets (think of Sesame Street's "Big Bird"), and others.

Sock Puppets


A sock puppet is a puppet made from a sock (or similar garment). When the manipulator fits a hand into the closed end of the sock, the puppet can be seemingly made to "talk". The puppet's mouth is formed by pushing the sock's toe into the puppeteer's palm, with the puppeteer's thumb forming the jaw. The top of the puppet's head is formed by the sock's heel. If desired, felt can be sewn into the sock to stiffen it and form the inside of the mouth. The sock is stretched out fully so that it is long enough to cover the puppeteer's wrist and part of the arm.

Sock puppets can be made from socks or stockings of any colour. Worn-out socks may be used, although socks that are too tattered may fall apart during performance, but socks are usually bought brand-new from the store in order to make sock puppets. Various additions can be glued on in order to give the sock a personality. Streamers and felt strings are popularly glued on for hair. Buttons are sewn on or Googly eyes (obtained from craft or fabric stores) are glued on for the puppet's eyes. Some of the eyes in the gallery above were made by attaching Googly eyes to pom-poms.

Other Types of Puppets


You can make a hand puppet from a stuffed animal plush toy. Do be sure that the toy you select is not one anyone (especially a younger sibling) would object to having cut up. You might consider buying one for this purpose, as used plush toys can be found inexpensively at thrift shops. The plush toys from which the puppets on the right were made were purchased a week before Valentine's Day at a big box store. Deals can be found. Select a plush toy that will allow room for the puppeteer's hand to fit inside.

To turn it into a puppet, examine it carefully and decide where you would need to cut it open so the puppeteer's hand can be inserted. In general, this means cutting the puppet off at the waist. Make the cut and remove most of the stuffing. Trim the ragged edge. Then insert a sock (or a glove) into the puppet and sew it to the bottom edge of the plush toy. The purpose of the sock is to prevent the rest of the stuffing from coming out. If the toy's arms are hollow and can be accessed from inside of the puppet, use a glove instead of a sock, and insert the pinky and thumb of the glove into the arms (you may wish to tack them in place).

If hand sewing, you may find it easier to insert a plastic cup into the sock before trying to sew. Then you can insert the needle until it strikes the cup, and then you know that you have picked up exactly one layer of the sock (it would not be good to miss the sock or to sew the sock closed). Once the sock has been sewn to the plush toy all around, you can either use the puppet as is, or you can make a garment for it.

Puppets can also be made by knitting or crocheting, or with paper mache.

See for more ideas on making puppets.

3. Demonstrate at least five key points in making a puppet “come alive”.


This is the fun bit. Until you add movement and voice, your puppet is just a lump of fabric.

So, you’ve made your puppet, now for the big performance … wrong! Please don’t even consider letting your puppets loose on the public until you are satisfied with your competency in the following areas:

Entering and Exiting Don’t just “pop up” or “drop down” (unless the script calls for the puppet to “creep” on or “appear suddenly”).

Entries look more believable if a puppet enters as if it has feet and is ‘walking forward’ up a set of stairs, either from the sides or back of the stage. Usually about four steps are sufficient. Keep puppet upright with head tilting slightly down as if looking at first row of audience.

Exits are the reverse, with the puppet appearing to “walk” downstairs. If there are more than one puppet, plan ahead which direction all will leave to avoid banging into each other.

Posture / Positioning Watch your puppets height above stage. New puppeteers who have not developed endurance, may find their puppet “sinking”. Pretend your puppet has a “tummy-button” and try to keep it level with the top of the stage. Why make a whole puppet if you are only going to show its head?

Initially your arms will get tired, so a good idea is to begin with scripts only a few minutes long. It gets easier with practice. Constantly leaning or resting on the stage will not help you develop strength in your arm muscles and restricts the movement of the puppet. Try to keep the puppet about a hand’s width back from the stage (sneak a rest on stage only if you think your arm is going to drop off).

Alternatively, include in your script a reason for puppets to leave the stage occasionally.

Keep puppet upright. Find the best position for you, the puppeteer. It may be kneeling, squatting, sitting on a chair, or with some stages, standing.

Eye Contact: Eye contact is an important feature, whether speaking to the audience or another puppet. Eye contact can make the puppet appear to be listening or thinking.

Make sure your puppet makes eye contact with whoever it is talking to (unless the script calls for it to “sulk” or “ignore” Try to avoid “stargazing” (looking at ceiling or above audience’s heads).

Mouth Action: Most movement should be with the puppets lower jaw. Practice opening the puppets mouth by moving the thumb downwards while trying not to move your fingers upwards. Try to avoid “flipping” the head back

Lip-Sync: Lip-sync is the ability of the puppeteer to synchronize the opening and closing of the puppet’s mouth with the words being said. The mouth moves once for every syllable of a word. The word “mar-ga-rine” has three syllables. Your mouth should open at the beginning of each syllable and close at the end of each one in time with the voice. A great way to develop this is to mouth the words of a song

When a puppet’s mouth is out-of-sync, it looks like the puppet is “biting” its words or “yapping” Don’t open the mouth all the way with each word. Save the “wide openings” for loud or exaggerated expressions

Even though the puppets mouth is closed when not speaking, you can still keep it “alive” by reacting to what other puppets are saying, with a nod or a look to the audience.

Practicing in front of a mirror really helps.

Essentially, the sound of the voice needs to look like it is coming from the puppet’s mouth.

Voice Can’t do voices? Of course you can. When you get excited or upset, your voice goes higher or lower, so just exaggerate it for the puppet.

A puppet’s voice should reflect the character it is portraying, be easily understood and have a kind of “cartoony” sound to it. Your voice and words convey the emotion and can either keep or lose the audience’s attention.

Don’t strain your voice.

Be aware of the diction. Speak slowly and pronounce your words clearly. Don’t create a voice for your character which would be hard for the audience to understand.

You can learn to “put-on” a voice by listening to and mimicking interesting everyday voices.

Don’t try too many voices too fast.

It is usually best to perform with a microphone if possible. You are behind a wall, so speak much louder than normal.

Performing behind a stage muffles your voice so try watching your puppet while you are speaking (You should be watching your puppet most of the time anyway). This will allow your voice to project up and over the stage. Video your performance if want to know how it sounded on the “other side”.

Over time, try to develop a voice for these characters: giant, baby, elderly person, mad scientist, goofy person, snob, bird, sheep, frog, chook, snake etc. Try various accents.

Developing Characters This requires time, practice and effort.

Anything can talk when it is a puppet - animals, everyday objects, vegetables etc.

What type of a personality do you want your puppet to have?

How will it look?

What mannerisms or uniqueness will it possess?

Try writing a script around the characters you create.

Movement Movement is the “key” to puppetry, so mastering movement or manipulation is essential.

Don’t allow your puppet’s head to be constantly moving up and down and all around without a reason. This can distract from the other puppets and your presentation

“When you are UP, you are always ON!”. So be animated, but use your movements carefully.

It is easy to concentrate so much on the script or your “tired” arms, that you forget what is going on “up there”.

Keep your puppet animated. Don’t overdo it and make the movements jerky. Just respond naturally to whatever is going on.

Attaching a rod to one or both of the puppet’s wrists, greatly increases the range of movement.

Animation can be as simple as a slight movement, leaning forward to hear or tilting the head.

Keep movements as close to life as possible. Try practicing these emotions: fear, excitement, disappointment, anger, tiredness and surprise.

There are many motions to give expression. Have a go at these: wave, blow a kiss, cough, brush hair, rub tummy, take a bow, yawn, clap, sneeze, laugh, cry, concentrate, scratch head. Use your imagination

Staging Depending on the performance and puppets involved, a stage can be anything from a simple sheet to a multi-level design and should be lightweight and portable.

Its purpose is to hide the puppeteer and highlight the puppet.

Don’t make the stage so fancy that it detracts from the performance.

A general height, if kneeling, sitting or squatting, is 1000mm – 1200mm high to top of stage.

Remember to keep your head down and keep any noise or activity behind stage to an absolute minimum. You are seeking to give the impression that the puppets are the only ones behind stage. Placing small "peep-holes" in the stage can be helpful.

Don’t encourage the audience to come backstage.

Most puppeteers prefer to pack their puppets away immediately after the performance to help maintain the mystery of “how it all happens”.

Costuming, Props and Scenery Help the puppet “come alive” by dressing the part to fit a particular theme or setting. It’s easy to change a puppet into another character by using costumes, wigs, hats and beards etc. This enables you to have many characters using only a few basic puppets.

Props and Scenery help to establish the theme and add interest and variety.

4. Develop two puppet characters with their own voices.


Before you choose a voice for your puppet spend some time deciding what the puppet is going to be like.



If the puppet is a female or a child, choose a higher-pitched voice. For a male, choose a lower-pitched voice. For a large male, make the voice even lower.



Decide what kind of accent the puppet should have. Think about where the puppet may have come from. For instance, if the puppet is a border collie, perhaps it should have a Scottish accent (border collies were originally bred in Scotland). Other distinctive accents to choose from could include British, Southern U.S., Boston, The Bronx (part of New York City), or even a foreigner speaking English (or other) as a second language. Listen to people who have such accents (the Internet is filled with videos of people speaking with various accents).

Habits of Speech


See if you can think of a hook word or phrase that your puppet likes to use, and incorporate that into the script. For instance, a puppet with a Southern accent might say "I reckon," and a teenage puppet would use a lot of teen jargon. An old lady or old man puppet might speak with a crackly voice and would use antiquated phrases. Decide whether your puppet speaks proper English or makes heavy use of slang. All of these things contribute to the puppet's voice.



Record yourself speaking in your puppet's voice, and listen to it. Try out a lot of different voices, and then listen to the recordings. If you hear something you like, see if you can refine it, again with the recorder running. Once you think you have something, perform the voice for one of your friends and see what they have to say about it. More refinements could be suggested.

5. Write two short scripts (2 to 3 minutes) with an object lesson included.


The hardest part about writing a script is getting a story idea. You could choose a story from the Bible and either play it as written or adapt it in some way (much the way several VeggieTales movies have a different take on a Bible story). Another source of ideas would be your AY curriculum. All of the progressive classes have requirements that can be met by putting on a skit or by role playing. These can easily be translated into puppet shows.

It's OK to work on these scripts as a group, but be sure that everyone participates.

6.a. Perform to an audience (not family or immediate friends) at least two times using a “moving mouth” style of puppet.


Now that you have puppets, voices, and a script, it's time to rehearse your puppet show. Appoint someone the director of the puppet show. This person should not have a puppet to operate, but rather, should take charge of the entire operation. The director will tell the puppeteers what type of expression to use in their voices, and will watch the play as it progresses. The director's job is to point out any mistakes the puppeteers make so that they can correct them rather than reinforcing them. The puppeteers need to understand that the director is only trying to improve the play, and they must be open to constructive criticism.

Once everyone knows their lines and knows how to move their puppets on the stage, it is time to perform the play. This can be done during a Pathfinder meeting, as the children's story during church, or even as the sermon (in whole or in part) on Pathfinder Sabbath. You could also take your show on the road and perform it for school children (though you need to make sure that the school knows the nature of the play - public schools in the U.S. are not allowed to host religious events, and schools in other countries are expressly forbidden to allow evangelism from religions that are not expressly sanctioned by the state.)

You could also offer to perform your play at a day care center.

Another thing you might consider which may (or may not) help your performance go more smoothly is to pre-record the puppet show's sound track, including all the voices. In this way, you may utilize a larger group of people by using different people to operate the puppets and provide the puppet voices. Or you can use the same people. This approach will also allow you to add music and sound effects, and it eliminates the risk of a person botching their lines or succumbing to stage fright.

Other risks are added however. Prerecording the audio removes spontaneity (though in some cases this might be desired) and precludes the possibility of adapting to an unforeseen situation (such as prop or stage failure). You also take on the risk of technical failure of the audio equipment. As with a completely live performance, the key is to practice.


Checklist available to leaders on the SPD honour page. Password required. The reason for have the assessment done by someone who is not related to the puppeteer is to avoid bias. Sometimes relatives will tell you you did a great job even if you did not because they do not want to hurt your feelings.

It is important to get honest feedback, because that is the only way you will be able to improve. If possible, video tape the performance and go through it with the puppeteers afterwards, pausing the videos to discuss various points. The assessor should not only point out the weaknesses and what went wrong, but should also point out the strengths and the things that went right.

Try to keep in mind that this honor belongs to the Outreach Series of AY honors, and remember what that implies. The purpose of learning puppetry in this honor is so that it may be used as an evangelism tool. Good puppets, good voices, good scripts, and good execution of the play can be a very effective evangelism tool. Poorly made puppets, boring voices, ill-conceived scripts, and inexpert execution are far less effective. The audience may lose interest, or start thinking about how awful the presentation. Rather than the audience getting lost in the message, the message gets lost.



South Pacific Division Pathfinder Honourː Trainers Notes. Requirement Introduction, Req 1, correction to 2., Req 3., updates on numbering of requirements.