story theater: tutorial

Here is what I'm thinking about: long hot car rides, lazy afternoons on the porch, evenings in the backyard where dinner ends at 5:30 and the kids aren't ready for bed until 8. This is what I was dreaming about in the middle of February, and even now when I think about endless summer days I get all fluttery and excited. With all of these *long* summer days ahead of us, I feel the need to come up with projects and games that are equally as endless. Games that Chick can get lost in. Story telling that has variety and little boundaries, where the characters are practically begging for another twist in the plot. I'm thinking about games that could go on and on and on until bath time.

Story theater! You can make it out of popsicle sticks (although I think the wider, slimmer tongue depressors work better), an old cereal box, and stamps from your collection. I used my hand carved stamps because I am constantly searching for new applications for them, but you could use store bought, and you can also make a version with old magazines. The possibilities are really endless since in addition to the grassy hill, you could make other easy landscapes like the beach or outer space (think moon scape).

One of the best things about this project is how sturdy the puppets are. The little figures end up feeling like solid puzzle pieces and even make a little clinking sound in your hand when you hold them. They feel *so* good. Promise.

The other best thing about this project is that it travels! I'm thinking car trips, picnic play, and after dinner in the grass story telling.

Here is how I made mine:

You'll need:
an empty cereal box
stamp pads (a few different colors)
kraft paper
Mod Podge
craft glue
tongue depressors (found in regular old craft stores)
X-Acto knife
old magazines (optional)

Step 1: Cut out the front and back panels from the cereal box. Do your best to cut straight lines. I used the folds as my guide.

Step 2: Using a pencil, draw a horizon line on the back of one of the cereal box panels. Once you are satisfied with the horizon line, paint the sky. Once the sky is dry, paint the grassy hill.

Step 3: Stamp images onto the piece of kraft paper. (I suppose you could stamp right onto the back of the other cereal panel, but I tend to like the kraft paper brown color a little more. It adds another step, but it felt worth it to me.) Use a variety of color inks for the different stamps. Let the ink dry. Once dry, cut out each stamped image. You may want to keep a series of images together. For example, I have a bunch of mushrooms and a mama bird with her babies.

Step 4: Coat the back of the other cereal box panel with a thin layer of Mod Podge. Place the cut-outs onto the panel and then coat with another layer of Mod Podge. Let dry.

Step 5: Once dry, cut out the images and glue them onto the tongue depressors. You may want to put some heavy books on the puppets so they dry flat. Here is a picture of me cutting a Mod Podge coated magazine rooster. It will have to do since I forgot to take a picture of me cutting the stamped images.

And, here are some dry puppets ready for action.

Step 6. Using a ruler, draw two straight lines on the back of the landscape panel. The idea is to make two slots where the puppets can poke through and move around a little. I suggest making one on the left part of the panel and another on the right. They should be about 3" long. You don't want them to be too long, but you do want to make them long enough for two puppets to fit into one slot. I think making one slot a little higher than the other is good for imaginative play; use a ruler and X-Acto knife to cut the slots.

Step 7: Once the puppets are dry, poke them through the slots and start tellin' stories.

Optional: Flip through some old magazines and cut out pictures of small animals, people, items that could be used for story telling. I used Chick's Highlights and Ladybug mags. Cut out the shapes and use them in the same way you used the stamped cut-outs.

xo e


  1. This is so cute! I love how customizable and creative it is. It would also be fun to use photos of family members. I'll be linking to this.

  2. Love it! I bought a bag of popsicle sticks over the winter that have been begging for a project. Thanks for the creativity...again.

  3. I love this one, Emily. I'm trying to imagine how I can make a popsicle stick of myself so I can hang out on that hillside.

    I want you to know that I just had to make a run to JoAnn's and the things I needed were already on sale, so I used my coupon on my very first jar of Mod Podge. I'm not sure which project to try first...

  4. This is such a great idea! I'm wondering how I could make it work with a pasta box with the "window" already in it.

  5. Such a cute idea! I love it!!!!

  6. lovin this! My little guy is so into birds. I think they will be flying all over the hill!

  7. love the simplicity of your work and the storytelling aspects. This has so many possibilities for communicating with children.

  8. This is such a fun idea!! the creativity could last for hours and hours! I have to make some.maybe i could try to find images that could go along with books like the 3 little pigs or red riding hood :)

  9. ooh ooh ooh! you just gave us about 2 hours of non-stop enjoyment for our upcoming road trip!! THANKS! (i'll have to make them this time around and involve the littles next round - i don't think i have enough patience left in our pre-trip frenzy to slow down and make 'em together!)
    these will be great.

  10. Can't decide if I like the stamps or the magazine puppets better---SO CUTE. What a great idea. Kinda reminds me of story-telling cards or dice. LOVE IT.


  11. What a wonderful project! I'm inspired!
    I love the cereal box backdrop... And I'm thinking to add 2 side flaps so that it can "stand up" and fold closed.
    We love dramatizing stories and I will definitely add a link to this on my post Finger Puppets.

  12. These are great, haven't played with popsicle puppets in years, thanks a lot!

  13. Just stopping by to let you know that I've featured your craft on Family Fun Crafts! You can see it here:

    If you have other kid friendly crafts, I'd love it if you would submit them. :) If you would like to display a
    featured button on your site, you can grab one from the right side bar of your post above.