My projects tend to spring from big ideas that involve many steps—working with kids reminds me to keep things simple. Depending on their mood, crafty inclination, and attention span (what attention span?), I find that doing projects with my kids falls into two categories: either the goal is the experience itself (such as working with playgdough and paint) with no preconceived final project in mind, or the project is driven by what we want to create (this frequently crops up around the holidays when we make a gift for grandma, class valentines, etc.). I believe that kids have more fun and there is less stress on the parents with the first category.
This simple project, which I did with my kids when they were three, combines both types of projects. The making part is easy and quick enough to be stress free, and it involved hours of fun for my children. What’s more, since we had all the materials on hand, we didn’t spend a dime, and cleanup was a breeze.
Popsicle sticks (wide ones work best)
Tape, glue, scissors
Toys (see how-to for details)
1. Gather toys. This is fun for kids and may even be a good way to clean up their toys as they search for their favorites. Many toys will work but figures and animals with bendable parts work best for balance. We used a variety of plastic superheros, wooden pirates, and dollhouse people from Melissa and Doug along with mini plastic Pixar toys.
2. Glue two popsicle sticks together to form an X. If your child is too impatient to wait for the glue to dry, tape works fine.
3. Tie string to each hand of toy.
4. Attach other end of string to a popsicle stick by tying string around popsicle stick and securing with tape. (For a more finished appearance, drill holes in ends of the popsicle stick. Thread string through hole and tie in a knot. Dab glue on knot to secure.)
5. To create a stage for the marionette show, drape a towel or blanket over a chair. Or use a cardboard box or foam-core to make a tabletop puppet theater. Cut strip out of the top to balance marionette sticks.
Let the show begin!