As Anne mentioned last week, we are splitting up Wednesdays among us to expand on local outings with some family fun at home. I volunteered for crafts. It took me having kids to re-connect with my “crafty” side. I love looking at Pinterest crafts; but I’m not big into directions or rules when it comes to creativity. Much of what I make isn’t pin-worthy. Kids have so much capacity for imagination, that they don’t really care about aesthetics. Which is good, because, although I could have made this upcycled TV into a beautiful puppet theatre, I settled for good enough.
Today’s craft isn’t super pretty. However, in the year since we made it, it has continually been one of my kids’ favorite toys — for all of them from toddler to preteen. They do puppet shows, news shows, plays; sometimes they turn it into a store. As an adult, I find it really tempting to make things other adults would appreciate, but when I step back, I realize the less I do to a project, the more my kids can engage in open-ended free play.
So, here is my story of how we made a big, ugly television into a big, ugly puppet theater (that my kids LOVE). And, at the end, I’m going to include a puppet show that we recently put together when we were playing around.
Follow up note: We kept this puppet theater for a couple years before its capacity for encouraging creative play became outweighed by its inconvenient size – not bad for a free toy.
Have you ever taken something for free and then realized you had just been blessed with someone else’s garbage? That was the case with a huge television we received from a friend of a friend’s parents. I don’t really know if it was the move that put the final nail its coffin or if our benefactors were less than honest about the state of the object they blessed us with; but either way, it never worked for us. We’re lucky to live in Minneapolis, where we can just put things like old TVs on the curb. But, I don’t want to teach my children to just throw things away. So, after hitting Pinterest, we decided to make a puppet theater.
This is a really simple project — even if you make it pin-worthy — which I haven’t yet.
First we gutted the TV. This is fun but messy. Keep a garbage bag nearby and, if you have household members who eat random objects, they shouldn’t be a part of this project. We made several toys out of the insides of the TV, plus I got a really cool trapezoid-shaped mirror out of the deal.
One unexpected favorite toy was the “e-bug”. My pre-teen invented them. They are made out of the resistors from the TV. I don’t have any pictures of her e-bugs, but I’ve added a picture of resistors to the right. The computer board became an e-bug village. Seriously, they got hours of play out of this until the e-bugs became something to fight over and mysteriously disappeared.
Later, after we saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the e-bug village morphed into a bomb that needed diffusing. I think we may have gotten enough play. This toy also mysteriously disappeared several months of it being left around the house, but it was fun to watch the games they could make from it while it lasted.
After the TV is gutted, you can decorate (or not) to your hearts content. We added a tension rod and curtains, but this addition was not particularly popular with the kids. Curtains are one of those grown-up additions to make it look better in the family room. Some of my Pinterest inspirations were much smaller. They have the benefit of being easier to find a home for, but the kids really like being inside the TV. The large TV lends itself to other play — besides just puppet shows.
One last parent-to-parent secret: when you find the permanent home for this theater, make sure you have comfortable seating facing it. Kid productions can be long and rambling. It is much easier to enjoy yourself if you are sitting on a couch. Better yet, get involved. We’ve had some fun times making our own plays. Sometimes, I just read a book that they act out with their puppets.
The video below is our own version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We made the puppets out of YOXO blocks, the packaging from SoftBum Diapers (read my review here if you are in the market for cloth diapers) and a cardboard cutout from a fast-food kids meal. I couldn’t match the cutout to a licensed character for credit purposes. Feel free to leave a comment if you know who she is.