Create a Rod Puppet

factory pencil

finished puppet A puppet is a figure that's created to look like a human being or animal, and it's controlled by a person called a puppeteer. People all over the world make the figures, and puppetry has an ancient history.

There are many types of puppets. Some with which you may be familiar include a marionette or one that is moved using strings, and a hand puppet.

The figure described here is another kind called a rod puppet. A central rod controls the head, and the hands are attached to rods or sticks as well. We'll reuse some materials to make a clown puppet.

You Will Need:


  • Newspapers
  • Wax paper
  • Brown paper towels
  • Satin Christmas ball ornament
  • Chop stick or dowel rod about 8" long
  • Buttons or beads for eyes
  • Small, red pom-pon for nose
  • Felt scrap for mouth (optional)
  • Tall, glass bottle
  • Wallpaper paste
  • Container for paste
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paint brushs
  • Container for paint
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun and sticks


  • Yarn
  • Scissors
  • Cardboard
  • Fabric glue or glue gun
puppet materials


  • Two 18" x 1/2" strips of construction paper or ribbon
  • White glue


  • Newspapers and
  • Wax paper on which to work
  • Two wooden, ice cream spoons
  • Two chop sticks or dowel rods 8" to 10" long
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brush
  • Container for paint
  • Glue gun and sticks


  • Cloth (at least 24" square)
  • Pinking shears
  • Pencil
  • String
  • Yarn
  • Needle

How to:

The parts of the puppet are constructed in the following order to allow some pieces time to dry.

 Head  Remove the plastic hook from the top of the ornament, and run the stick at least 1" into the ball. Tear the paper towels into 1" square pieces. Mix the wallpaper paste according to the manufacturer's directions.

Smooth a small amount of the mixture onto the ball, and begin pasting the paper onto it. Continue gluing, overlapping the pieces as you go. After applying one or two layers to the head, place it in the bottle to dry.

When the head has dried completely, paint the skin, cheeks, eyebrows, and accents. Paint a large mouth or use a scrap of felt and glue it to the face. Have an adult glue on two buttons or beads for eyes, and add the red pom-pon for the nose.

 Hair A pom-pon is a tuft of yarn. To make one, wind yarn around a 4" piece of matboard or heavy cardboard at least ten times. Slide the yarn off, knot it in the middle, and cut the ends, as shown.
After making a pom-pon, untwist each strand of hair to make it fuller. Our example has four pom-pons glued to the head, one on each side, one on the top, and one at the back. Fasten the hair using fabric glue, or have an adult stick it in place with a hot glue gun.

Hands To make the hands, have an adult use a hot glue gun to fasten the sticks to the ice cream spoons as shown in the example. Paint the front of the hands, and set them on the wax paper to dry. Now paint the backs, and lay them aside to dry.

Collar A Jacob's Ladder, which has been glued around into a circle, forms the collar. To make one, use white glue to fasten the two strips of construction paper or ribbon at right angles, as shown. The vertical strip will always be folded up or down, and the horizontal one will be folded left and right.

Begin by folding the vertical strip down, and then fold the horizontal strip to the left. Now fold the vertical strip up, and follow this by folding the horizontal strip to the right. Continue folding the paper down, left, up, right, down, left, up, right until you come to the end of the strips.

Glue the ends in place, and fasten the opposite ends together forming a circle. Set the collar aside till you're ready to assemble the puppet.

Body The clown's body is made from a circle of cloth. To draw the circle, first make a compass by tying a piece of string onto a pencil. The string should measure at least 11" after it's been attached. Turn the fabric over on the wrong side. Place the end of the string in the middle of the cloth, and draw the circle as shown in this example.

Cut out the shape with pinking shears. To find the center, fold the cloth in half and then in half again. Snip a small piece of cloth to allow the stick to fit through the center. Using yarn, sew a basting stitch around the opening, leaving two tails that are at least 4" long.

Assembling the Parts
Slide the collar onto the stick, and have an adult hot glue it to the underside of the clown's face. Put the dress onto the figure, and draw up the string, gathering the costume on the figure. Tie the ends together in a knot or bow. Hot glue the dress to the underside of the collar. Attach the hands to the dress using duct tape, as shown.

Controlling the Puppet
To move your puppet's head, just turn the center stick from side to side, or make it nod or bow by moving it forward and backward. Raise and lower the hands by holding one or both sticks in your other hand. After you practice controlling your puppet, gather your family and friends, and put on a show!

Tips and Tricks:

Substitute thinned, white glue for the wallpaper paste.

Be sure to clean brushes immediately, as acrylic paints dry fast. Paint left in brushes will ruin them.

If you wish, spray the puppet's head with a clear, acrylic varnish to protect the finish after painting, but before gluing on the eyes, nose, and hair.

Instead of using yarn for hair, substitute Easter grass, feathers, shredded yellow pages or color comics, raffia, curled ribbon, or excelsior, a shredded, wood-like packing material.

Fabric glue is tackier than most white glues, so it will do a better job of gluing yarn and felt. Look for it in art stores or the craft department of fabric shops.

Make a character other than a clown, or let your imagination run wild and make an alien from outer space! Since no one has seen such a creature before, you can make it in any color or form that you can imagine. Use pipe cleaners for antennae.

Two excellent puppet links are The Puppetry Home Page and Muppet Central. Learn more about clowns at the International Clown Hall of Fame.


© 2008 Marilyn J. Brackney (updated 2018)

Volume 17 No. 1

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