Today, 11 July, it is exactly 62 years since the ever popular Andy Pandy, Teddy and Looby Loo puppets first appeared on television. In fact the Andy Pandy shows were repeated for more than 25 years, and only had to be stopped when the film wore out! This birthday occasion set me thinking about puppets, since even today children still enjoy not only watching puppet shows, from the indomitable Punch and Judy to ventriloquism acts on popular talent shows, but also putting on their own puppet shows. One of the easiest types of puppet to build is of course the sock puppet. All you need is a sock (obviously!), and some things to stick on it such as eyes, ears, teeth and tongue.
Buttons are good for eyes, a bit of ribbon with a V cut at one end is good for a snake tongue or dragon's tongue, and even a heap of wool stuck on top is great for hair. In fact there are two ways you could go about this. With all the appalling weather we're enjoying in the UK at the moment we're often stuck inside with our children rather than them playing outside in the garden or the park. So why not start collecting a few things together now, such as some socks, buttons, bits of ribbon, wool and other odds and ends, putting them into a box for that inevitable rainy day.
The children can then choose a story, perhaps a popular fairy tale, a cartoon on television, or some other story, perhaps even one made up, after which they then go about creating the sock puppets for each of the main characters. Once this is done the children can then rehearse and perform a sock puppet show which tells the story. The easiest way of doing this is to simply have the children bob down behind the settee, although of course if you have a couple of large cardboard boxes you can even dedicate a little extra time to making your own puppet theatre. You might even decide to film the show for them to be able to watch afterwards, perhaps even uploading it to YouTube for the family to see! Trust me, in 15 years' time your children will thank you! Perhaps. But another way of going about this is to have a sock puppet party. For young children facing a long and potentially damp summer there will be times when they want their friends around. So why not have an arts and crafts party which uses sock puppets as the theme? By gathering a box of bits and pieces now you can have your child invite a few friends over for them to all get together and make their own sock puppets, perhaps performing shows for each other or working together to put on one big show at the end of the day. Sock puppets might seem a little old-fashioned, as with finger puppets, but for young children they are still new, and they still find it great fun and very exciting to see an old sock suddenly come to life as a fully fledged character. It's one of those rainy day activities which can take a great deal of time, result in something worthwhile, and which costs almost nothing. The children will almost certainly want to keep their sock puppets afterwards, and at least it's something which won't take up too much room, or need dusting too frequently.