Stop motion puppets for the holidays

In 2020 I made patterns available to act out the Nativity story as a shadow play. This advent season I am sharing just a few patterns to show you how you can use the puppets differently. In my previous blog post I shared patterns for Mary and the angel Gabriel in a corrugated cardboard display stand. Sharing Joseph today, I will show you how you can use puppets in stop motion films with just a cheap app on a phone or tablet. On the day before Christmas I will share the manger for a nativity set.

Making a stop motion film

Tripod cell phone holder with laptop and shadow puppets

Making stop motion films is a lot of fun. Usually people do it with three-dimensional objects, often using lego or clay. If you use silhouette puppets it is more like a flipbook, seeing lots of photos in which you move puppets bit by bit. The Italian classroom that participated in the 2020 Nativity project used an iPad with Stop Motion Studio, available in the Apple store or Google Play  I myself use Stop Motion too, but on my laptop, using my phone as a camera. They are not connected by wires but via bluetooth (my phone and laptop on the photo are only charging).

Puppets laying flat

shadow puppet of Moses raising his staff and parting the sea

Moses parting the Red Sea (animated gif)

So far I have only made little stop motion films with puppets lying flat on a white sheet of paper. For this I used an adjustable tripod phone holder that can photograph things from above (this is mine). It looks best if you move parts less than 1/4 inch (1 cm) at the time. Removable glue dots will allow you to reposition the parts that you want to move. The little film above (which I turned into a small animated gif on this site) shows Moses parting the Red Sea by moving his staff over the water.

Stand for upright puppets

Side view of a cardboard stand with back panel

For the film showing Mary and Joseph above I tried to make the puppets stand up rather than lay down. For the stand I used materials that I found in our local craft store, but you can use any corrugated cardboard box that you can find. For a back panel any stiff paper or poster board will do. It can be just blank, like I had, but you could also attach drawings to them as background. For puppets that stay in place you can put the holding rod in an opening of the corrugated board. To enable Joseph to walk I attached a strip of bristly (hard) velcro to the inside of the stand. I used a piece of soft velcro to attach the rod to the stand and moved it bit by bit for each photo.

How to make the puppets

Now all you need to do is download the puppets and put them together. Below you find an instructional video and additional links. Next week, on the day before Christmas, I will share patterns of a manger and ideas to make a nativity display.

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Nativity puppet stop motion

Helene van Rossum

Author: Helene at Past Times

Helene is the founder of Past Times and a crafter, archivist, and children’s book author. Her passion is bringing history to life for children, classrooms, and families through imagination and play.

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