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Make your own toy theatre and puppets, script your story and stage a play using everyday materials.

This activity is inspired by the 19th century toy theatre from our Everitt and George family collection. It helps to tell the story of what was once a popular family pastime.

How to make a toy theatre

Make your own toy theatre and puppets 5:54

Skill level: ★ Easy — you may need an adult to help
Time: 
1 hour

Tip: Ask an adult if it is okay to use materials from around the home. You may also need to ask for help with cutting out and constructing the theatre.

What you need:

  • A3 toy theatre template. We suggest you print this template onto cardboard. If you are using paper, you could reinforce it with cardboard uprights or a cardboard stage. If you do not have a printer, you could make your theatre out of an old cereal box or other cardboard.
  • A4 storyboard template to help plan your play (optional)
  • wooden sticks (from an ice cream, fairy floss or similar)
  • scissors
  • glue, blu tack or sticky tape
  • paints, crayons, coloured or patterned paper, wool, cotton, felt or fabric for decorating your stage and puppets.

Step 1

  • Come up with an idea for your play. Explore your collection of treasures at home or look at the Museum’s Collection Explorer website for ideas. Are there any good stories? Are there interesting characters? What themes are explored? What materials will you use to create your puppets?
  • You might like to use our A4 storyboard template to capture your ideas and plan the flow of your play. Draw a picture of each scene in a box and describe the words (dialogue) and action for each scene in the text box underneath.

Step 2

  • Print out the A3 toy theatre template, preferably in colour so you can see the red lines for cutting and folding.
  • With the help of an adult if you need it, cut out the theatre and puppets. You can also make your own puppets, without the template.

Step 3

  • Gather your materials together. What colours or textures will you use to make your character and object puppets? Will you sculpt, collage, or draw and colour your puppets?

Step 4

  • Design and decorate your puppets and theatre using the materials you have gathered. Experiment with different materials. How elaborate will you make your puppet? What works with your story? The puppets here were inspired by the story of champion racing driver Joan Richmond.

Step 5

  • Once you have decorated your theatre and puppets, follow the instructions on the template to fold and stick the theatre together with tape.

Step 6

  • Practice performing your play, using your storyboard as a guide. Then invite your friends and family to a show! Perform your play and ask your audience to join in and create their own story.

Try making a few different puppets and experiment with your story lines.

Share your creation

We’d love to see your creation by emailing us a photo to: programs@nma.gov.au

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