In the winter, evenings are longer, and it means that our shadow puppet theatre opens more frequently. This week, in preparation for the holiday season, its play bill has been updated, and a winter play is now showing. While planning more winter plays in the weeks to come, we decided to start by staging a familiar fairy-tale – The Gingerbread Man. Find your free printable designs here, or buy the puppets in our Etsy shop.
The Gingerbread Man and Its Modern Interpretation
The Gingerbread Man is not usually the first story that comes to mind in association with winter, but the tradition of making gingerbread men is very popular around Christmas. Winter is a great time for baking, and cold months seldom passes without baking several batches of cookies to enjoy in the family and to exchange with friends. That’s one reason why this story seemed fitting for our first play this winter.
The second reason is a lavishly illustrated story by Jan Brett – The Gingerbread Baby. The story is similar in many regards to the original folk tale, so that readers can recognize familiar characters, but there are also new faces and an interesting twist to the plot. I was pleasantly surprised by an alternative ending to the journey of the spunky cookie. The illustrations are gorgeous and as detailed as ever, picturing a small Swiss village in its winter glory. Despite the fact that Christmas is not mentioned, the spirit of the holiday is there, and so The Gingerbread Baby is a perfect winter read for toddlers and preschoolers.
With our set, both stories can be reenacted. It includes a man, a woman, a cat, a dog, a pig, a fox and a gingerbread man, as in the folk story. There is a boy and a little gingerbread house for introducing a different ending, as in Jan Brett’s version. And once little directors get a hold of the puppets, they may tell you a completely new story. Why not create your own version of The Gingerbread Man this holiday season?
How to Make a Shadow Puppet Theatre
A simple setup does not need to be complicated. Take a big box, cut a hole out and stretch some baking paper across it. Put it in front of a direct light source and use any objects or your own hands to create shadows by placing them between the box and the lamp. Usually, the closer you put the object to the screen, the crisper its silhouette will be.
If you feel like puppet performances may become a frequent occasion in your house and your children will appreciate a permanent setup, you can also follow my tutorial on how to make a vintage-inspired puppet theatre.
How to Make Puppets
First, I make the designs of the silhouettes in my sketchbook. It is my favourite part, and I am happy to share the prepared designs with you. Please, download them, then transfer onto the black paper and cut them out, using scissors for outlines and a hobby knife for small details. Alternatively, you can print the designs on a thick white paper and colour its back black, then cut the silhouettes out.
Next, you will need some bamboo skewers and scotch tape. Tape the skewers to the back of the puppets and they are ready!
You can read more about making the puppets here. Cutting shadow puppets can be time-consuming, so you can simply order your set from our shop. And in the end of this article you will find a giveaway for the whole set of The Gingerbread Man cast along with many other prizes.
Dimming the Lights…
Prepare for a beautiful and atmospheric visual experience of the sort that warmed and lit our ancestors’ homes on wintry evenings past.
Depending on which version you want to tell, the story may begin differently.
Once upon a time, a woman and her husband lived alone in a little old house. The couple had no children, and being lonely, the woman decided to make a boy of gingerbread.
Once upon a time, in a Swiss village there lived a boy. It was cold outside, and it was warm inside, so he decided that it was a perfect day for baking.
No matter what happens first, the chase after the gingerbread man inevitably comes next, and he is as jolly and cocky as a little cookie can be. “Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!”
Until the Gingerbread Man meets the fox…
But in Jan Brett’s version, he manages to escape from the fox. Still, there are many people and animals in hot pursuit. Where can a small gingerbread man like him go? Oh, a perfect gingerbread house! Never mind that it is in the middle of nowhere. The gingerbread man runs in and gets captured.
He keeps on living in the gingerbread house though and becomes friends with the boy who baked him, then made the house for him! So it is a happy ending.
What winter story would you stage as a shadow play?
If you liked this shadow puppet play, you may also find these related activities interesting:
– How to Make a Puppet Theatre: learn how to make a wooden puppet theatre worthy of the royals
– Three Little Pigs: check my favourite set of puppets from over the last year
– Picture Books that Make the Best Gifts: find more ideas for literacy gifts for children