Family fun, Making tutorials

Make a dancing Santa puppet

Merry Christmas everyone! If you’re looking for a fun craft activity to do with the kids over Christmas, why not have a go at making a dancing Santa puppet. You’ll need an empty toilet roll tube, two bottle tops, some string, a stick and a few other bits and pieces.

Unfortunately our internet connection has decided to take a little Christmas Day nap, so we couldn’t upload a video tutorial for you this time, but we’ve included step-by-step instructions and photos below:

What you’ll need:

  • empty toilet roll tube
  • two plastic bottle caps
  • string
  • scissors
  • glue – a glue stick or PVA glue. A hot glue gun will be useful if you have one.
  • felt and coloured paper
  • a stick – this could be a sturdy twig, dowel or a pencil (but ideally longer)
  • something to poke holes with, such as a compass or a bradawl
  • googly eyes (optional)

Cover the toilet roll tube with felt or coloured paper, sticking it down with a good quality glue stick or PVA glue (use this sparingly or it will soak through the felt!). If you have a hot glue gun this will also work, but remember to take care and work quickly before the glue dries.

Make holes in the tube for the arms and the legs. The easiest way to do this is to use a bradawl (pictured) to push through one side and out the other. Take care with your fingers as a bradawl is, obviously, very sharp! To make sure the two arm holes are lined up, and the same for the two leg holes, you might want to measure an equal distance from the end of the tube on both sides and mark this with a pencil on both the inside and outside of the tube, before you make the holes.

To make the feet, cover each plastic bottle top with coloured paper and secure it in place with good quality masking tape on the underside. This doesn’t need to be super neat as no-one will really see the bottom of the feet. Using the bradawl (or a compass), make a in the middle of each bottle top – the string used for the legs is going to go through this.

Cut two lengths of string – one for the arms and one for the legs. Take the string for the legs and thread one end through the top of one of the feet. Secure this in place underneath the foot with a piece of tape. Thread the other end through one leg hole, across the inside of the tube and out the other leg hole, then do the same with this end and the other foot as you did with the first foot.

A tip for when you’re threading the string through the holes: if you wrap a small piece of masking tape tightly around the end of the string and pinch it at the tip it creates a kind of needle, making it easier to push the string through the holes.

Fold over a piece of coloured paper and cut out a mitten shape, so that you have two pieces the same shape. Take one end of the arm string and place it between the two hand pieces then glue them together. Thread the other end of the string through one of the arm holes in the tube, across the inside of the tube and out the other side. Make a second hand and attach the string the same way as you did with the first one.

Now to make the face. Cut out a head from card and leave a tab at the bottom, which you’re going to fit inside the body tube and stick in place. Draw the placement of the features on your Santa’s face with a pencil.

Cut out a beard from white felt, or you could scrunch up pieces of white tissue paper. Cut out a hat for Santa from some red felt. Use your glue stick (or small amounts of PVA glue) to stick these on to the face. We’ve added two extra pieces to make a moustache, drawn on a rough mouth with biro and stuck on googly eyes for the eyes.

Fit the neck tab inside the body tube and, using good quality masking tape, stick it down to hold the head in place.

The type of puppet we’re making here is a simple marionette, so we need to attach some string. Cut four long lengths of string – make them longer than you think they will need to be, then you can always cut them shorter later. Attach one piece to each of Santa’s knees by tying a knot.

Using the bradawl, make two holes in the body about 1cm from the top, one hole either side of the head (see photo for position). Thread the end of your third length of string through one hole, and the fourth through the other, and either make a large knot to keep it in place, or pull the string through a bit, loop it up over the top of the tube and tie it around itself.

Take your stick – this will be your marionette control. Loosely tie the two body strings around the stick near the middle, and do the same for the two strings attached to Santa’s knees, but position these further along to the left and right. Get a friend to hold the stick at the height you would like it to be when you’re animating the puppet, then adjust each string by winding it round the stick until you have the desired length, and tie a double knot to hold it in place.

Your Santa puppet is ready to dance! Bring him to life by rocking the stick side to side and moving each end forwards in turn to make him walk.