Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thanks to a Little Pink Pig -- Felt Puppets for Children

Angel puppet, showing scale
I've been indulging in one of my most enjoyable pastimes – designing and making felt hand puppets for children. I started making puppets decades ago when I had small children of my own. Those were the days when Kukla, Fran, and Ollie had one of the most popular programs on television. As a teacher, I found puppets very useful for reaching young children. I could use animal puppets to teach them about life on the farm or in the desert or the jungle. Character puppets could illustrate history or life in other other cultures, as well as demonstrating concepts like kindness and cooperation. Even fifth-graders enjoyed the puppets, although they felt they were far too sophisticated to admit it.

Although it is one of my simplest designs, my favorite puppet is a little pink pig. Let me tell you how that came about.

More than thirty years ago, my day job was teaching art and craft classes for a Parks and Recreation center near Fort Carson, Colorado, while I taught night courses at a business college in Colorado Springs. One of my craft classes was engaged in making several dozen puppets to take to Children's Hospital in Denver at the end of the session.

The Little Pink Pig
The class members were a diverse group, differing in age, ethnicity, and previous crafting experience. Only one was a native Coloradoan. The others came from as far away as New York and California and one was from the Navajo reservation. They were friendly and enthusiastic and a joy to teach. They really kept me hopping, designing new puppets each week.

At last the big day arrived. We gathered up our bags of puppets and formed a small convoy to convey them to Denver. After a kind greeting from hospital administrators, we began walking through the wards, showing the puppets and giving them away to the children as we went.

I had the little pink pig puppet on my hand and was making it bow and wave or hide its face shyly against my shoulder as I approached a nurse who was holding a very limp-looking toddler in her arms. Suddenly the little one gave a faint cry and reached both arms toward the puppet. I pulled the little pig off and handed it over.

The nurse's eyes filled with tears. As our group gathered around her, she explained that the child had been brought in some time before, suffering from a closed head injury. The doctors feared that there was brain damage. The little pink pig was the very first thing the child had responded to.

Red fox puppet
Soon there were a lot more damp eyes on that ward, including those of the child's mother and grandmother, hastily called up from the hospital cafeteria. But the tears were tears of hope and joy. It was then, and still remains, one of the best days of my life. 

The head nurse was kind enough to keep us informed of the child's steady progress and eventual release. Just about everyone in the center had become interested in the matter and we were all greatly cheered by the good news.

This past December I was making new puppets when I remembered the little pink pig and wondered if I still had the patterns from that long-ago class. (I'm the proverbial pack rat and seldom throw anything away that might possibly be useful someday.) I rummaged through file boxes until I found a dusty expandable folder that looked promising. Inside were all my old patterns. I've started making them again, along with new designs.

The "End"
The very first one I made was a little pink pig.

And no matter how many characters I create, or how many “critters” I portray, my very favorite one will always be a jolly little pink pig with a jaunty curl in its tail.


These, and other puppets, are available in our Etsy shop

 Creative Commons LicenseThis post by Annake's Garden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

1 comment :

  1. Your puppets are simply adorable! Sounds like a great time was had by all!


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