The Magic of Paper Bag Puppets

Close up of two paper bag puppets. One has a simple dog face drawn on with black marker, the other shows a more complex purple and pink dog face made with cut out paper, colored pencils, and paint.

Paper bag puppets are a simple DIY craft project that kiddos readily make their own. All you need is a paper lunch bag and a marker to create puppet magic!

Are you looking for a quick and easy way to create pretend play magic with your child at home? Look no further than the humble brown paper lunch bag. Sure, they’re great for carrying PB&J, but they also hold infinite creative potential in the form of the paper bag puppet! Paper bag puppets are a simple DIY craft project that kiddos readily make their own through decoration, character creation, and storytelling. Not only that, puppet play can help your child develop speech and communication skills or learn to talk about and express feelings more effectively. All you need to get started is a paper bag and a Sharpie!

"The Magic of Paper Bag Puppets!"

paper bag puppets up in stage
AGES

3 and up

PREP TIME

5-30 minutes

PLAY TIME

Limitless

Paper bag puppets supplies

Paper Bag Puppet-Making: Preparation & Supplies

Constructing paper bag puppets is as effortless or as complicated as you choose to make it. Really. Because this activity is appropriate for ages three and older, the time and complexity of the project can and should be adjusted accordingly. Prep time could take five minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour depending on your child’s age and engagement level.

First, you need some paper bags. Lunch-size bags are ideal for puppet-making, as they fit well over small hands. Plain brown kraft paper bags are the perfect blank canvas, but colorful paper bags work just as well. Lay the smooth side of the bag flat against your work surface, making sure the bottom flap is folded and facing up at the top of the puppet.

Second, you need a drawing tool. An ordinary black Sharpie or another marker will do the trick. Have your child draw a face on the paper bag flap; it could be a human face, an animal face, an alien face, or the face of a magical creature. And suddenly, you have a simple puppet!

If you and your child want to get even more creative, introduce other art supplies and encourage your kiddo to go wild! Use yarn for hair or fur. Bust out the googly eyes, stickers, glitter, glue sticks, scissors, construction paper, and paint. When we make puppets in The Rabbit Hole studio, we have pre-cut paper facial features and accessories available for the kids to color and apply to their paper bag characters. Try it at home if you’d like – the more structured approach helps some kids create more freely.

paper bag puppets example

Character & Story Creation

When your child finishes making their puppet, you can help them develop the puppet’s character and personality by asking them questions. Does your character have a name? What is its favorite food? Where does it live? Does your puppet have a job or a favorite activity? If your puppet character could go on a fantastic adventure, what would they do? Where would they go? How do they feel today? Encourage your child to place the puppet on their hand and answer the questions in character.

Once your kiddo feels comfortable with their puppet character, they may want to build an entire story. You can support your child by offering parameters (“Let’s make a story that takes place in a magical frozen land!”), or allowing them to make all the creative decisions. Encourage your young one to tell the story through their puppet in whatever way makes them feel successful, and watch the magical creative sparks fly!

paper bag puppets up in stage

Fun for the Whole Family

Now that your child is a paper bag puppet expert, it’s time to get the whole family involved. Perhaps your child can use the same character creation prompts to help you or other family members make a puppet or two of your own. This conversation may inspire a new story incorporating all the paper bag puppets. Before you know it, you’re collaborating on a script, and you’ve got a full-blown puppet show on your hands!

If coming up with a wholly original story seems daunting, we suggest using the puppets to act out scenes from your kiddo’s favorite movies, audiobooks, or songs. These familiar stories allow you to be creative within a framework, eliminating the pressure of inventing dialogue or a brand new storyline. You, your child, and your puppets will find creative freedom in riffing on and expanding the stories you already know.

Finally, you may be wondering where you should stage your puppet show. The simple answer is anywhere. Feel free to sit around the kitchen table or on the living room floor. You don’t need a stage, but you can definitely make one if you want to! Just take a large cardboard box (the larger, the better) and cut off the backside, leaving a three-sided standing structure. Cut a square or rectangular opening in the front piece of the stage – it should be large enough to showcase the puppets and high enough that puppeteers can still have some cardboard to hide behind. Decorate your puppet stage with paint, curtains, or fairy lights if you wish.

Thank you for joining us on our magical paper bag adventure!

Paper bag puppets are a simple, inexpensive, recyclable, and super fun way to create magic at home. The possibilities are endless, and you may soon find your child with an army of puppet characters ready to tell their stories! If you and your kiddo want to explore at-home puppet play more in-depth, you can try building your own fancy puppet theater or using your puppets with one of our Theater in a Box kits. You and your child may be surprised at the creative insight you gain from a humble paper bag and a little time together. Enjoy your puppet adventure!

Continue the adventure with your own theater show!

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Mary Eriette Atanante

Teacher and Characters

  • Favorite Character:  Sabirel
  • Favorite Magic Powers: Flying
  • Favorite storybook land: Camelot

Mary has been a teacher at The Rabbit Hole Children’s Theater for the last four years. You can find her teaching a class, creating activity books, dressing up and performing for kids or jamming at a birthday party! 

A recent graduate from San Francisco State University studying Theater and Communications,  Mary  loves to help children unlock their imaginations and motivate them to create the wonderful ideas in their mind!

Chelsey Mony

Teacher

  • Favorite Character:  Alice 
  • Favorite Magic Powers: Flying
  • Favorite storybook land: Wonderland

Chelsey is an actress, dancer, improviser and has an exuberant passion for musical theater. Her love of theater began when she was a little girl.

When she is not helping those in need, she found joy in performing in a community theater group in Las Vegas- having starred in multiple shows for the past 5 years.

Chelsey  moved to the Bay Area in 2019, and  joined the Rabbit Hole team. Her love of theater and wonder will be an excellent asset to the team as she encourages children to find their own unique love of theater and wonder.

Creating a safe space for children to exercise their imagination and creativity is her mission in this work.

Melania 'Mel' Rivas

Head of Product Development

  • Favorite Character:  Sailor Moon 
  • Favorite Magic Powers: Flying
  • Favorite storybook land: Neverland

Mel is an eclectic, curious and creative individual who has learned and experimented with many different arts & crafts forms since she was a little kid.

Fascinated by the healing power of art and its ability to express our inner worlds, she has pursued and completed studies in art, early childhood education and psychology.

Mel has taught bilingual exploratory art to children during the last 5 years and now she makes use of her passion for creativity and children’s education to bring The Rabbit Hole Children’s Theater ideas to life for kids all over the world to enjoy!

Strider Patton

Project management

  • Favorite Character:  Wizard Merlin
  • Favorite Magic Powers: Invisibility
  • Favorite storybook land: Middle Earth

Strider Patton is founder and director, Brooke’s husband, and partner in The Rabbit Hole. A third-generation self-taught artist, Strider grew up appreciating and making art.

He is a professional contemporary visual artist himself, specializing in sculpture, murals, and studio art. When he is not in his studio or on an installation, he is working with the Crew at The Rabbit Hole. Building sets, designing products, creative planning, and the occasional puppet show keep Strider involved with the company from many angles.

He has worked with youth and communities since he was young, valuing the role that creative expression plays in communities and individual lives.

Ariella Cooley

Head Creator.Sound Designer.Teacher

  • Favorite Character: Pirate
  • Favorite Magic Powers: Flower Power
  • Favorite storybook land: Narnia

Ariella Cooley has been teaching and creating at The Rabbit Hole since 2017. As a lead teacher, she uses theater games, song, dance, masks, puppetry, and crafts to tell stories with the kiddos in her class.

As sound designer, she pulls from her classroom experience to make the Rabbit Hole Queendom come to life aurally. Crafting whimsical underscores, creating kooky sound effects, and finding expressive character voices make her tasks endlessly enjoyable!

Ariella earned her B.A in Theatre Arts from UC Santa Cruz, focusing primarily on acting and directing. Her work as a vocalist and songwriter inspired her expansion to audio production and theatrical sound design.

At Rabbit Hole, she is able to tap into all of these artistic loves and fold them into her work with children.

Meryl Theo Press

Head Creator.Illustrator.Teacher

    • Favorite Character: A drowsy cat with a cupcake farm  
    • Favorite Magic Powers: Flying 
    • Favorite storybook land: Narnia not under the white witch’s rule

    Meryl Theo Press has an affinity for play. She brings humor, music, visual art, and empathy to her work with the Crew at The Rabbit Hole. With these tools, she enjoys creating magical worlds for kids to inhabit, in order to stimulate their imaginations, encourage self-expression, and nourish joy.

    In the classroom, her focus is on “seeing” the child. In her illustrations, Meryl appreciates detail and seeks a thread of storytelling. In summoning voices for The Rabbit Hole’s audio plays, she digs deep and scoops out the absurd characters within. She uses her longtime love of singing to bring musical elements to Rabbit Hole classes and productions.

    Meryl studied printmaking and painting at California College of the Arts and has performed with various bands in San Francisco, the United States, and Europe. She has been a part of The Rabbit Hole since 2016. Meryl’s 9-year-old daughter Vida is her most treasured and valuable collaborator.