A finger puppet can act as a friend, a healer, or simply another voice between parent or teacher and the young child. When discomfort arises, this little go-between can relate on a different level or help lighten the mood. It’s important to consider and work with the temperament of the child in puppet interaction. I learned to make this project in a Waldorf teaching workshop, and we used role-playing to explore the possibilities. A child feeling sad might need someone to express that same sadness. Or a child exhibiting aggression may be acting out of fear, and find comfort in aiding another little fearful being. We used a little finger puppet, ‘Dusty Gnome’ in our preschool classroom who would whisper each child’s cleaning task in the teacher’s ear. It’s important to reserve the healing friend for adult use to preserve the magic of this special interaction. Make different finger puppets for your children’s play. The possibilities are endless!
First prepare your supplies. Once your hands are wet it gets quite sticky! Thin longish strips of wool are best. Gently tug roving to pull out long fibers. Get a towel for drying off, and fill a bowl or dish tub with warm soapy water.
Wrap the wool around your finger and submerge it in the soapy water. You can encourage felting by agitating on a washboard or sushi mat, but if you don’t have those tools, just use your fingers. Multiple thin layers will create the sturdiest felted material.
As you layer the wool, be sure to wiggle your finger about in order to widen the hole for the puppet. It may shrink up a little as it dries.
You may add colored roving in layers for different looks. Here I used a bit of yellow for the face, and then covered the rest with green to make a little felted elf. I shaped his hood a little too. I think it gives him a shy, approachable look.
To make the wise woman, I started with her rust colored cloak. I drew some of the wool over the top of her head and around her body in alternating layers. I left her face the color of natural wool. I made the wise woman in homage to my teachers, and the brave souls who kept the knowledge of herbal medicine for us today.
For her hair, I used a needle-felting needle to tack it down. Do not do this in front of your children. We don’t want them to model the violent poking action, or poke themselves following our example. If you know you would like to use both wet and needle felting simultaneously, you can cut a piece of foam or roll up a piece of scrap cloth to use as your ‘finger’ base.
I left my puppets fairly free-form, but you can finish with additional needle felting or painting. We used Stockmar paints in our workshop for coloring our creations and they worked quite well. Enjoy, friends! Please see my accompanying project – the Healing Basket!
Kendra Ortner is constantly inspired by the beauty and wonder of the natural world, reclaimed sweaters, thrifted treasures, and her two year old. She lives in Portland, Oregon and creates by hand at home with support from her loving partner.