Fun Family Math: Make a Stick Puppet

This activity helps children learn about shapes and use problem solving to build their very own stick puppets.

Esta actividad también está disponible en español.

This activity helps children learn about shapes and use problem solving to build their very own stick puppets. Today we will make a frog and a bird puppet, but you can use your imagination to make all sorts of characters.

These stick puppets, built from ovals, circles, semi­circles, rectangles and triangles are fun to make and inspire hours of imaginative play. Help your child design their own puppets and put on their very own stick puppet production!

A pair of frog and bird puppets on top of a blue background
A pair of frog and bird puppets on top of a blue background. | Henry Cram / Family Math / PBS SoCal

Learning Goal

This activity will help your child:

  • Identify basic shapes and piece together their own characters
  • Learn to recognize and name shapes
  • Understand the connection between shapes and real ­life objects

Materials

  • Construction paper
  • Wooden craft sticks
  • Glue
  • Googly eyes (optional)
  • Markers or crayons

Assembly

Step 1: Cut out the various shapes required for each character from the construction paper (see descriptive imagery below.)

As you cut out the pieces, talk with your child about the different shapes:

“An oval looks like an egg, or a squashed circle. It has no straight sides or corners, but it isn’t a circle because it’s not perfectly round. Maybe this will be the head or the body?”

“A triangle has three straight sides and three corners.”

“A rectangle has four straight sides, and the sides across from each other are the same length.”

“When we cut this circle in half, we get two semicircles!”

Step 2: After you’ve cut out your shapes, glue them together, using the descriptive images below as guides.

When assembling your puppet, make sure that you have enough overlap to glue the pieces together

If you don’t have googly eyes, use a marker or crayon to draw the eyes and mouth. 

Step 3: Glue the finished puppet to a wooden craft stick.

Construct the Frog:

Green pieces of paper cut out to resemble a cartoon frog on a blue background.
A frog puppet just needs a few creatively-cut pieces of paper. | Henry Cram / Family Math / PBS SoCal

Construct the Bird:

Purple and blue pieces of paper cut out to resemble a cartoon bird on a green background.
As you cut out the pieces of paper, talk with your child about the different shapes they see. | Henry Cram / Family Math / PBS SoCal

Take It Further

Several puppets of animals (kitty, frog, bird, squid and baseball player) on top of a green background
With a little imagination, simple shapes can become anything you want. | Henry Cram / Family Math / PBS SoCal

After you’ve created the bird and the frog puppets, encourage your child to create puppets from more complex shapes — even if you don’t know the names of those shapes! Encourage their creative spirit and praise innovation. Maybe they want to make a puppet of themselves or a beloved pet. Talk to them about characters and story.

Create a theater out of a recycled box! Cut a viewing window and decorate your set. Now you can put on a show!

Book Suggestions

  • “Circles, Triangles and Squares” by Tana Hoban
  • “Mouse Shapes” by Ellen Stoll Walsh
  • “Whoo? Whoo?” by David A. Carter

This activity was inspired by “Stick Puppets – Peg + Cat” on PBS LearningMedia


Related Stories from PBS SoCal:

— A Fun Pirate-Inspired Fruit Salad Recipe That Helps Children Practice Math Skills
— Make Fun Crafts While Counting, Measuring and Weighing Objects With Your Little Ones (Watch How-To Videos in English & Spanish)