Puppet Playhouse

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Total Time weekend projects Ages preschooler

Are you looking to bring a taste of the arts home, and it's a rainy day with nothing to do? Here is an easy way to punch up those blah days.

Puppets allow children to become an active participant in their imgaginary world as opposed to just watching it on tv. This puppet stage is a sturdy and reasonably inexpensive backdrop for your child's creative world. Here are the directions for a homemade puppet theater.

What you'll need

  • 4-by-8-ft. sheet of 1/2-in. plywood, finished on both sides
  • Cardboard (for template)
  • 4 ft. of 1-by-6-in. pine(for stage shelf
  • 2 ft. of 3/8-by-3/4-in. pine (for window stoppers)
  • 3 ft. of 1-by-2-in. pine (for stage shelf brace)
  • 4 1-by-1-in. hinges
  • 4 2-by-2-in. hinges
  • 4 small pull knobs
  • 2 1-ft. lengths of light-gauge chain
  • 4 medium screw eyes
  • Nails, 2-in. finish
  • Carpenter's wood glue
  • Paints, rollers, brushes
  • 1 1/3 yds. velvet for curtains (or old curtains)
  • Thread
  • Curtain rod, cloth loops and thumbtacks
  • Circular saw
  • Straightedge and clamps (optional)
  • Drill with bits
  • Jigsaw

How to make it

  1. Step 1 - Puppet Playhouse

    Using a circular saw (with a straightedge and clamps, for extra stability), cut the sheet of plywood into the theater's front and two sides, as shown. Sand all edges until smooth. An easier option: For a nominal fee, have your lumberyard cut the stock when you purchase it.

  2. Step 2 - Puppet Playhouse

    Create a cardboard template for the rounded windows and trace the pattern on each side piece. Drill a 1/4-inch hole just inside the line, insert the jigsaw and cut out the window. Sand all cut edges.

  3. Step 3 - Puppet Playhouse

    Draw the rectangular stage opening (14 by 36 inches), drill a pilot hole and cut out, using a straightedge if necessary. Sand the edges.

  4. Paint the theater. We chose a simple three-color scheme. For a fancier look, consider painting the front with chalkboard paint or hanging a bulletin board or dry-erase marker board there for notices of upcoming shows.

  5. Step 5 - Puppet Playhouse

    The removable stage shelf consists of a notched 1-by-6-inch board glued to a 1-by-3-inch brace. First, cut a 39-inch length of 1-by-6-inch pine, then round and notch the ends. Cut a 36-inch strip of 1 by 2 for the brace, then glue and nail it in position along the underside of the 1 by 6. When in place, it should rest against the theater's front. Countersink the nails and let dry.

  6. For the window stops, cut two 11-by-3/4-by-3/8-inch strips of pine, quarter rounding the ends, if desired. When the paint is dry, glue them so a 1/4-inch lip sticks up above the windowsill, preventing the window door from swinging in.

  7. Step 7 - Puppet Playhouse

    Attach the sides to the front with the 2-inch hinges, screwing the hinge plates to the inside walls. Install two safety chains at floor level, suspending them between screw eyes. The chain should prevent the hinged sides from opening more than 120 degrees. Hinge the window doors in position, hardware on the outside, using 1-inch hinges. Glue the pull knobs on both sides of each door. Insert the notched stage in position.

  8. Step 8 - Puppet Playhouse

    Use an old curtain or make a new velvet one, as follows. Cut the velvet into two 24-by-36-inch rectangles. With each, turn under and stitch a 5/8-inch hem on the two shorter sides and the bottom. Turn under 2 1/2 inches from the top, then stitch 5/8 inch down and 1 7/8 inches down from the top to create a pocket for the curtain rod. Slip in the curtain rod.

  9. Use thumbtacks and cloth loops to hang the curtain rod. (Other hardware may prevent the sides from folding in completely.) Dim the lights, open the curtain, and let the show begin.

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