Crafty Wednesday – Upcycled TV to Puppet Theatre

While I love looking at Pinterest crafts; I’m not big into directions or rules when it comes to creativity. Much of what I make isn’t pin-worthy. Luckily, my kids have so much capacity for imagination, that they don’t really care about aesthetics. This is good, because, although I could have made this upcycled TV into a beautiful puppet theatre, I settled for good enough and that allowed me to give my kids hours of creative fun that may not have happened if I’d waited until I could do it perfectly.

This is the story of how a big, ugly television became a big, ugly puppet theater (that my kids LOVE).

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.

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 actually the resistors out of the TV. 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 at Children’s Theatre, the e-bug village morphed into an challenge that needed diffusing. I think we may have gotten enough play just from this piece. However, this toy also “mysteriously” disappeared after several months of it being left around the house (nobody wants to step on that), but it was fun to watch the games they could make from it while it lasted.

Upcycled TV Toys
This is an e-bug village. Ebugs are also made from TV innards. It is also sometimes a bomb that needs defusing. sometimes I step on it.

The Puppet Theatre

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.

The video below is our own version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

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 Final Outcome of our Upcycled TV Project

In the year since we made this upcycled TV puppet theatre, it has continually been one of my kids’ favorite toys — for all of them from toddler to preteen. They put on puppet shows, produce news segments and act out 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.

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.

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4 thoughts on “Crafty Wednesday – Upcycled TV to Puppet Theatre”

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    1. Right. How many people have big old TV’s lying around to do crafts with? Next month we will focus on paper mache. Everyone has old newspaper and flour!

  2. That was funny, love the water bed! Cool idea to narrate while they act out because usually my kids plays need more words.

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