Special Awareness Days

March 21st  - World Puppetry Day


Puppetry is an ancient form of communication dating back over 3,000 years. Using inanimate objects that sometimes represent a human or animal form, puppets are animated or brought to life by a human operator or puppeteer.

The Union International de la Marionnette (UNIMA) is an international organization based in France. Formed in 1929, the organization’s purpose is to promote and develop the art form of puppetry.  In 2000 at their annual conference, puppeteer Dzhivada Zolfagariho felt that it was important to recognize the talents of puppeteers and so he proposed creating a special day to honour the art form and its practitioners.

The holiday was observed in 2003 for the first time. Since then, World Puppetry Day is observed every March 21. On this day, all over the world, puppeteers, both amateur and professional, create performances to celebrate the fun and creativity that this art form can inspire in children and adults everywhere. 

(K-2) Art, Language

(Note: For this activity, you will need students to bring a sock or old mitten from home (any colour or type). If this is not possible, provide each student with a small brown or white paper lunch bag. You will also need your own! If some students arrive unequipped, explain that they can make a puppet by just making their own hand talk!

Ask students if they have any puppets at home. Can they describe them? What are their names? Where did they get them?

Have any students been to a live puppet show? Discuss.

What do they like about puppets? 

If possible, watch a short video of a puppet performance (such as this YouTube video.)


  • What did they like about the puppet?
  • Why do they think it seemed so real when they knew it was make believe?

Explain that in celebration of World Puppetry Day, they are going to have an opportunity to introduce their own simple puppet.

Model the activity by placing your own hand in a sock, mitten, or paper bag and introducing your puppet character to the class. You may also model using your hand and making it “talk.” Invite students to do the same. Ask for volunteers to share the following with the class:

  • •the puppet’s name, age, and grade
  • their favourite hobbies
  • what they like to eat
  • their favourite colours, summer and winter activities, etc.

Invite all the puppets to join you in singing a song (even “Happy Birthday” will work) using their puppet voices. Take turns sharing the productions. Close by asking:

  • Did you enjoy this activity? Why?
  • Once you met the other puppets, did it matter that none of them had any faces or hair or clothes? How could you tell who was who?
  • Did you enjoy letting your puppet talk and sing with the group? Why?

Explain that puppets can be simple, like the puppets they made today or very detailed like the ones they see on “Sesame Street” and other puppet shows. What is important is that puppets let you play and talk and sing and dance and act without worrying about what others might think. In other words — puppets are FUN!

(3-5) Oral language, drama, Art, Cooperative Skills

(Note: For this activity you will need several craft supplies to make the puppets. Consider using old gloves, socks, paper bags, wool or yarn, glue guns, buttons, ribbons, sticks or rulers, etc. Divide resources up and have several creative centres around the room.

Ask students:

  • Why do you think people enjoy puppets?
  • Do you think puppets are just for children? Discuss.
  • What special talents and skills do you think a puppeteer needs to have?

Visit our  Well Aware Series to view Gr. 6 “Art Works and additional resources directly related to this topic.

Explain that today is World Puppetry Day and ask students why they think a special day has been set aside to celebrate puppetry.

Explain that puppets can be very simple as in a sock puppet, or very complex and life-like as in the puppets used on “Sesame Street.” It is not so much what the puppet looks like that matters; it is what it says, how it acts, and how others act around it that make it interesting.

Have students participate in a simple puppet theatre play. Invite them to create a simple puppet using items at their creative centre. Explain that they will only have 15 minutes to create their puppet so you are not expecting elaborate creations. Suggest stick puppets, finger puppets, sock puppets, paper bag puppets, etc.  

Once the cast has been created, students interact with the group on one of the following topics:

  • A discussion about what to do on snow days
  • An illustration of how they can play together on the playground
  • A shopping adventure to buy vegetables
  • Things to say that make others feel good
  • Any other topic (cleared by you)

The object is to have everybody participate and to avoid negative behaviours such as using the puppets to belittle or abuse each other. Once the mini puppet plays have been shared with the class, ask:

  • What did you enjoy most about this activity?
  • If you had a longer time to make your puppet what would you have done? Do you think a more detailed puppet would have changed your puppet theatre? How and why?

Close by reminding students that puppets provide people with a way to express themselves and act silly, sad, serious, or happy by taking on the personality of the puppet. Sometimes it is easier to express something you feel or think through a puppet than to just say it face-to-face. Ask students if they agree with this statement and, if so, why?

Encourage more puppet play throughout the school year.

(6-8) Art, Drama, Conflict Resolution.

Share the information in the introduction about World Puppetry Day. Ask:

  • Do you like puppets? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think the art of puppetry has been around for so long? Why do children love puppets?
  • Do you think puppets are just for younger children? Discuss.

After students share their knowledge of puppet theatre, explain that sometimes puppets are used to help resolve conflicts or to help talk to children who don’t want to talk about something. Ask students to suggest why this might be an effective way to share information. Discuss.

Invite students to create a puppet using any scrap materials they might have at home or in the classroom (this can be a homework assignment or in-class art lesson). They could use a puppet they have at home, or simply use an old sock, glove, mitten, paper plate or paper bag. They can even form a puppet shape with their hand if they choose!

Explain that the focus for this experience is not on the puppet itself, so it does not have to be elaborate. Once the puppets are created, ask students to give their puppet a name.

Invite the students to interact with their classmates (either in person or virtually) to create a scenario where the characters use conflict resolution skills to defuse a problem on the school grounds. (Note: You can set your own ground rules and decide how much time you want to devote to this activity. Time limits for the scenarios should be set so that the problem has a solution but doesn’t drag on for an unlimited time. Also, remind students that verbal, physical, and emotional abuse are not acceptable forms of conflict resolution.)

Here are some possible topics for their puppet plays:

  • A new person in the school is being left out and put down because he/she can’t speak English.
  • Some students have been cyber-bullying another student.
  • No one wants to partner with a certain person and he/she is really hurt (no names).
  • Bullying is taking place in the younger grades at your school and you want to put a stop to it. 

Once the plays have been completed and presented to the class, consider asking the puppeteers to share them with the younger students in the school, if possible.

Close by asking:

  • Did you find this activity easy or difficult? Why?
  • Do you think that younger students might benefit from this kind of activity? Discuss.
  • Why do you think that puppets are sometimes used to promote and celebrate cultural diversity?
  • What qualities and characteristics do you think adult puppeteers need in order to reach many different audiences?

Visit our Well Aware Series to view Gr. 6 “Art Works” and additional resources directly related to this topic.

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