On the Indonesian island of Java, shadow puppetry has been a popular form of family entertainment for more than 1,000 years. A typical performance can feature as many as 50 intricately crafted characters. Your kids can cast a shadowy show of their own with just a few of these simplified paper puppets and a tabletop stage.
Here's what you'll need: poster board, scissors, masking tape, drinking straws, a paper hole punch, paper fasteners, a 34-by-18-inch piece of cardboard, a craft knife and a large sheet of white paper.
For the simplest shadow puppet, just cut out a character from poster board (you can work from a tracing) and tape a drinking straw handle to the back. For one with movable parts, such as a bird that can flap its wings or a horse that can toss its head, you'll need to cut out the parts individually. Use the paper hole punch to make one hole in the movable part and another in the body where the part will be attached. Use a paper fastener to join together the pieces. Tape an extra straw handle to the back of the movable part.
To make a freestanding stage, fold back the cardboard (about 45 degrees) 9 inches in from each side. Next, use the craft knife (a parent's job) to cut out a large window in the center panel. Place the sheet of white paper up against the back of the window and tape the edges in place.
When your kids are ready to use the theater, cover a table with a long tablecloth or sheet and set up the stage on the rear of the table where they can duck down and operate their puppets. Then, set up a lamp behind the stage, and show off the shadow star players.