Family fun, Making tutorials

Ten-minute tutorial: soap box rock pool theatre

In this ten-minute creative tutorial we show you how to make a rock pool puppet theatre out of an empty soap box, one or two toilet roll tubes and a few other bits and bobs.

Suitable for (recommended): age 5 to adult, but younger children will need supervision when using scissors. This is also a fun activity for the family to do together.

You can watch the video tutorial below, and underneath that we have included written and photo instructions you can check back to as you’re making.

Please note: our ten-minute tutorials are thus named because they are ten-minute videos. The actual time it takes to make your rock pool theatre can vary, but will most likely be longer than ten minutes.

You will need:

  • empty soap box
  • 1 or 2 toilet roll tubes
  • glue stick and PVA glue
  • scissors
  • masking tape
  • blu tack
  • pen or pencil
  • colouring pencils/felt-tip pens
  • coloured tissue paper
  • sea shells (if you can get some)

Take your empty soap box, and at the open end you’re going to cut out the bottom flap of cardboard, as per the picture, and fix the top flap shut with masking tape. I used a craft knife to do this because I’m used to working with one, but if you’re not please use scissors to be safe!

Cut the top off your soap box, measure where the middle is and draw a line down it lengthwise. Cut along this line, so you end up with two cardboard strips. Using your glue stick, stick one strip to the inside of each of the two long sides of the soap box, to make it more sturdy.

Now take a toilet roll tube, cut down it lengthways to open it up and flatten it out. To add even more strength to your soap box, cut four strips out of the toilet roll tube to stick to the inside of all four sides of the soap box (measure them using a ruler or draw round each side of the box, and make sure to leave the rectangle we cut out earlier in one of the short sides open).

To strengthen the bottom of the box, draw round the box on to the toilet roll tube and cut out a rectangle, then stick this on to the BOTTOM of the box (not inside). This covers the writing on the bottom of the soap box and leaves the inside free to draw on if you want to.

Now it’s time to decorate your box! I’ve covered mine with this lovely textured brown paper, which was actually a paper gift bag I’d saved. You don’t need to cover the bottom, as that’s already covered with toilet roll tube. If you don’t have any shells you can make some out of the toilet roll cardboard using pen and pencil crayons (see bottom left of picture).

If you need some inspiration for your rock pool, take a look at the pictures below. We took these at our local beach in Falmouth, Cornwall, and you can see all different textures and colours of seaweed, shells, and even a crab. Click on each individual image to view it larger.

To make some seaweed for your rock pool, you can tear strips of tissue paper and bunch it together. I’ve also used a few bits of this packing cardboard I saved from a parcel, colouring it green with a felt-tip pen. Stick it in to your box using either a good glue stick or PVA glue (use sparingly with the tissue paper as if it gets too wet it can tear and end up a gooey, sticky mess).

Stick shells in using blu tack – this means you can move them around if you change your mind about where you want them. You can stick them on to the sides as well as the bottom, as I’ve done here with the little yellowy orange shell, and in the corner with the bits of mussel shell climbing up the side.

Once you’ve stuck in your shells you might want to add some seaweed around the edge of your rock pool. I used a mixture of green and purple tissue paper. To get this purple shade I actually carefully coloured in some green tissue paper with a felt-tip pen. The brown seaweed is more of that packaging, coloured with felt-tip pen and stuck on with a dab of PVA glue.

Now you’re ready to make your puppets. Cut out two long strips of toilet roll tube to use as controllers, then draw, colour and cut out your characters. The crab is pen and colouring pencil on toilet roll cardboard and the fish is drawn onto sugar paper, then stuck on to toilet roll cardboard. Stick each puppet on to its controller with glue stick.

Et voilà! Your rock pool theatre is ready for a show. The puppet characters enter and exit the stage through the slot you cut in the short edge. You can place your theatre on a table and have your audience watching from above, or sit the box on its side and perform to your audience that way. Now you just need a story…

Share your creations and thoughts

We would love to see your rock pool theatres, so please share your creations with us on social media:

  • Facebook: @noseyhedgehog
  • Instagram: @noseyhedgehogpuppetry
  • Twitter: @NoseyHedgehog

We’d also love to receive feedback on our creative tutorials so we know what you are enjoying and if there are any bits we can improve on, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below. Thank you.

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