Here’s a little project you can work on this weekend, though I hope you have some other plans because this one is so easy, it shouldn’t take you long. Build monkey finger puppets out of inexpensive felt from your local craft or fabric store, or from that overflowing box of felt scraps that parents and teachers of preschoolers often have tucked away.
Print this sheet for pattern outlines, though keep in mind that these don’t have to be precise! This isn’t a Chemistry assignment. Tweak and change as much as you like! It usually works out!
Cut the bodies and ears from brown, the eyes from white, and the nose/mouth piece from a pink or flesh-tone felt. You can draw on the eyes, nose, and mouth details with a Sharpie now, or after the puppet has been constructed.
Glue the pieces together with a glue gun or craft glue. Lay your first body piece down and glue the ears about 1/2 an inch to 1 inch down from the top, so that they stick out from the body. Glue the second body piece on top with a thin beading of glue around the edges, covering where the ears attach, and leaving the bottom open for your finger. Next, glue on the white eye piece and then the nose/mouth overlapping the bottom of the eye piece.
For a full set of Five Little Monkeys, working assembly line style usually moves things along pretty quickly, once you’ve made one to clarify the process. If you’ve got a good pair of scissors you can cut through a couple thicknesses of felt at one time, speeding up the job. Don’t worry that the five puppets don’t look exactly the same – they don’t need to. Variation adds personality!
You can make even simpler stick puppets, with the children! I use this pattern and depending upon the age and cutting abilities of the children, I may have them cut out all of the pieces or, for younger children, I cut out the ears, eyes, and nose/mouth pieces and then have them practice cutting along a circle outline for the head piece (a typical fine motor skill test around age four). The children affix the pieces with double stick tape, and then tape the head to a large craft stick. Voila! Each child now has a monkey puppet to use for storytelling.
(Now some may turn up their noses at this project because it is not a free art project. And they’re right, it’s not. On the Spectrum of Preschool Arts and Crafts, this would fall under the label of a craft project, focused on the skill-building objective of cutting along a round line, and following directions for construction. Because the focus is on cutting, encourage the children to do it themselves, even when it doesn’t look perfect. Some of those jagged cuts make for some perfect monkey hair!)
You could use these any of these puppets as you sing Five Little Monkeys, or as you read any of the fabulous stories in Eileen Christelow’s Five Little Monkeys book series. If you’d like, give your puppets (paper or felt) some personality by adding hair bows or hats to look like the monkeys in the stories.
Using puppets increases the child’s engagement with a story, while also encouraging him to reproduce the story on his own. This builds language skills and comprehension,both of which are vital to reading.
So grab some supplies and share this activity with some little monkeys of your own!