One crucial part of starting a puppet ministry is, of course, finding puppets. About four people puppets can give you a good start. Here are some places to get puppets:
Creative Ministry Solutions (formerly One Way Street) is a Christian company who makes a wide variety of good quality puppets and related products.
The Creativity Institute puppets are quite a bit cheaper and look pretty good online. I don’t have any experience with them, however, and don’t know anyone who has. Please comment if you know more about them.
Creative Ministry Solutions also sells a pattern for making puppets. I haven’t used this particular pattern, but considering the source, it should be a good one.
Sneaky Ways to Get More Puppets for your Dollar
One way to stretch the amount of puppets you have is to make a puppet fit more than one role. Clothes, hats, and costume wigs can change a puppets appearance considerably. We’ve even added a beard to make a Bible character and wings to make angels. Note how these boy and girl puppets turn into an old man and woman.
I found these bird puppets second hand. They came in several colors, but I wanted to make more of a difference between them. I added eyelids to one and eyelashes and extra feathers to another. Note these all came with squeakers which were easy to remove.
When we started our puppet team in New Zealand, my daughter really wanted a human arm puppet. Much more movement is possible when human hands become the puppet’s hand. Being the frugal (cheap) person that I am, I didn’t want to pay a couple hundred dollars for one. I went to a toy store and hunted for a stuffed toy with a mouth that would open and close. I found a hairy, orange monster that was practically all head that worked well for us. Here Smiley is holding a piggy bank.
How I made Smiley from a hairy monster: I cut off his skinny arms and legs which I used to make another puppet. Then I opened up the head at the bottom and made a place for a hand to enter. I placed a stiff plastic layer (from an ice cream carton), folded in half, into his mouth to form support for the hand. Then I made shoulders out of fabric, stuffed it with layers of foam, and sewed the shoulders to the head so the hand could go between the shoulder layers and into the head. I added shoulder pads to fill out his shoulders a little. I bought an XL men’s shirt and made slits up the back to give more room for movement .
Smiley can be manipulated by one puppeteer if one arm is left hanging. If two hands are used you need two puppeteers or one puppeteer with three hands. J
To assemble Smiley the puppeteer(s) place the shirt over the shoulders. The puppeteer wears a knit shirt for an under layer of sleeve. If two puppeteers manipulate Smiley, they wear matching shirts. One person puts one hand into the head and the other hand into one of the sleeves. The other inserts a hand into the remaining sleeve to become the remaining hands. Each of Smiley’s hands wears an orange glove. White gloves work too.
When Smiley is fully assembled, he can even play the violin (when he practices) or do complicated actions. If you remember Rowlf the dog on the Muppet Show who played the piano, you can see what convincing action is possible with a human arm puppet.