Re-finding the Lazy Days of Summer With Outdoor Puppetry
By Suzanne Down
I remember when summers were lazy days to ride bikes freely over the land, float boats in creeks with my brothers and swim like fishes in the cold water of the Atlantic. My own children grew up in wilderness British Columbia on the large Kootenay Lake famous for its pristine glacier fed waters. They rode their bikes between the general store and Sunshine Bay, swam, fished, rode ponies, and explored endlessly. Today lucky children enjoy the same nature filled freedoms. Wherever we live, city, town, or country, summer means slow down and be in nature with our children.
Stages – go find a special spot for an outdoor puppet theater.
It can be:
- a big rhododendron in your yard
- a tree with a big root
- a flat rock by the pond
Find a place that stirs your imagination a little.
- look in your yard
- at a local park, in the forest,
- at the beach (driftwood forms!)
- or on a summer family trip at the Grand Canyon!
Set up gnome houses in hollow logs. Pine cone families can dwell there. Odd bits of bark make tables for their meals – flower petals in acorn tops can set the table well.
Summer is for Spontaneous Stories in the moment, inspired by nature’s found objects.
‘Once upon a time there was a big tall papa pine cone who lived in the forest with his dear wife. They lived in a wooden cottage in the mossy glade. Everyday Mama pine cone gathered wild flowers for supper, and Papa carried water from the creek to make tea. They lived there happily except for one thing. Oh, how they longed for a baby pine cone of their own.’…(what comes next?!)
A spontaneous story simply begins, like this one, with no ‘planning’, and you and the children can create an ending for it, and tell and tell and tell it. They are fun and surprising and creative and joyful to do together, nature, with puppets from nature!
Here are a couple of other story starters for you in different locations. You finish them…don’t think – just open your heart and tell!
1. On a white sandy beach by the blue, blue sea, a great big wave carried a shell from far away and gently placed it on the sand. There it sat for a long time until little crab came along and said…this looks like a fine little house, just right for me, and he moved inside…… (what comes next?!) (this was inspired by Kim in Maui, who has a beautiful puppet story about a shell house.)
2. Down by the pond, hidden by the grasses, was a large flat stone where turtle liked to sun himself. One day, as turtle dozed in the warmth of summer, he was awakened by a sound…’help help’, called out a teeny tiny voice. Turtle looked up and saw a baby lady bug who had fallen into the pond….. (what comes next?!)
You see how delightful it is to trust our endless inner creative voices!!!
Of course these are more fun if made visible with your nature stages and nature puppets!!!
River Stone Turtles – children’s summer puppet craft project
Find round or oval smooth river stones – small, medium large…cut out strong wool felt (100% wool felt is best) head, legs, and tail, then glue them to the bottom of the stone so they stick out in turtleness. Put them out on a log in the woods by a creek…let their story unfold.
Rose Hip LadyBugs – summer puppet craft project
Slice rose hips in half – glue on black felt dots, or use black markers….instant ladybug!!!
Lie in the grass with your children and oodles of lady bugs, and sing and sing…
Fly away home
Your house is on fire
Your children have gone
All except Anne
The littlest one,
She slept under the patty pan.
Use a rose petal for the frying pan.
Make lots of ladybugs, tell their tale…have mama ladybug and little Anne fly together and find all the other children and a new home in the poppy patch.
When my daughter was little we hiked up a hill and found a grassy patch where there was a ladybug nest. Hundreds of ladybugs crawled all through the grass. We sang this nursery rhyme and told tales all afternoon. We remember it still. My daughter is almost 25 now. We remember it because we took time to be together with our friend WONDER.
May your summers all be blessed with rest, peace, and joyful times with family and friends.
Suzanne Down is longtime Director of Juniper Tree School of Story and Puppetry Arts . She offers workshops all over North America and beyond. Her free email story newsletter reaches thousands of people each month, sign up here. Her story and puppet books are available through her website. You can find her on facebook too – with her personal page and her Juniper Tree Puppets page. Browse through her photo filled BLOG entries for lots of ideas.
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