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: winter shadow puppets play for children (free printable designs included)

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?

The set of puppets coupled with a book will make a lovely gift for children. You can cut the puppets yourself by downloading the designs, or buy them at our shop.


How to Make a Shadow Puppet Theatre

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.

The Gingerbread Man: Christmas shadow puppets play for children (free printable designs included)

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.

The Gingerbread Man: Christmas shadow puppets play for children (free printable designs included)

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.

The Gingerbread Man: Christmas shadow puppets play for children (free printable designs included)

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!”

The Gingerbread Man: Christmas shadow puppets play for children (free printable designs included)

Until the Gingerbread Man meets the fox…

The Gingerbread Man: Christmas shadow puppets play for children (free printable designs included)

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.

The Gingerbread Man: Christmas shadow puppets play for children (free printable designs included)

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

If you want to stay updated on new stories from Adventure in a Box, consider subscribing to our FacebookPinterest or Instagram pages. Thank you for reading!

The Gingerbread Man: Christmas shadow puppets play for children (free printable designs included)

Check other participants of the holiday series…

Five Ways to Simplify the Holiday Season from Bare Feet on the Dashboard

Charitable Act: Shoeboxes Filled with Presents from La Cité des Vents

Joyful Christmas Crafts for Kids from Handmade Kids Art

Give a Little Bit from Gypsy Road School

Joy Comes from the Inside… But Not of a Package from A Mother Far from Home

Welcome to the Festive Family Holiday Giveaway from Peace but Not Quiet

Sharing Joy & a Giveaway from P is for Preschooler

Share Some Joy this Holiday Season from Are We There Yet?

Thankful Turkey Wreath Tradition from Mom Inspired Life

Christmas Sensory Play Ideas for Kids from Still Playing School

Unique Kits for Kids that Foster Creativity from Lemon Lime Adventures

Holiday Tradition Ideas for Families from Sugar Aunts

Gratitude Stones: A Thanksgiving Nature Craft for Kids  from Fireflies and Mudpies

Montessori Monday – Montessori Inspired Thanksgiving Ideas from Living Montessori Now

Finding Joy in the Holidays Even During Difficult Times from ALLterNATIVElearning

Christmas Shadow Puppets Play from Adventure in a Box

Sharing Joy through a Holiday Giveaway from Kids Yoga Stories

Family Thankfulness Jar from The Realistic Mama

Gratitude and Thanksgiving Books for Preschoolers from Totschooling

Festive Family Holiday from In the Playroom

Free Nativity Puppets from A Happy & Blessed Home

Follow Becca Eby ~ Bare Feet on the Dashboard’s board Festive Family Holiday on Pinterest.