If you’re at all familiar with the festivities surrounding the Chinese New Year, you’ve probably noted the celebrations often include a colorful, dancing dragon. The dragon symbolizes power and strength, and chases away evil spirits; it also brings good luck to those who are worthy. The Chinese New Year begins on January 31 this year, and to celebrate, Kathleen George is sharing a tutorial to make a Chinese Dragon Puppet. Make your own Chinese Dragon Puppet and welcome good fortune in the coming year!
This is a long tutorial, and I almost spread it out over two days. But I wasn’t sure if that would help or hinder as you followed along. While this Chinese Dragon Puppet isn’t an everyday children’s project (and it requires a lot of adult supervision), it’s pretty special and well worth the time. It’s a wonderful way for teachers and other caregivers to bring to life the many amazing cultures of our world.
To make a Chinese Dragon Puppet, you will need:
- STYROFOAM™ Brand Foam:
- One 4” egg
- Balls: One each 1” & 1-½”; and 8 – 12, 2-1/2” balls
- Wood dowels, two 12” x 3/16”
- Girl’s or women’s tights in red
- Acrylic craft paint in red and pink
- Wiggle eyes, ¾” (Kathleen used green wiggle eyes)
- Felt: Red, bright green and pink
- Foamie sheet in white
- Chenille stems in red and green
- Pompom trim
- Pompoms, small
- Red yarn, thin
- Thick, white craft glue
- Low-temp glue gun
- Tools needed: Scissors; serrated knife or plastic knife; bar of soap or old candle (to wax the knife blade); paintbrush with stiff bristles; pencil with sharp point; craft pins; cardboard, 6” wide, or a paperback book
*NOTE: The serrated knife is for adult use only. Children should use a plastic knife to cut STYROFOAM Brand Foam, and should be closely supervised while using it. Children should also be closely supervised while handling a glue gun.
To make a Chinese Dragon Puppet:
Build the dragon’s head
(Follow Kathleen’s helpful diagram for Steps 1 – 3.)
1. Draw a vertical line around the 4” egg (from the narrow end to the wide end), dividing it in half. Draw a second line around the egg horizontally, 2 ½” from the narrow end.
2. Using the serrated knife or a plastic knife, make a cut along the vertical line, starting at the narrow end of the egg and stopping at the horizontal line. Make a second cut along the horizontal line, cutting from the bottom of the egg to the first cut you made. This piece is the lower jaw of the dragon head.
3. Trim away some of the interior edge of the jaw so that when the jaw is glued back in place, the mouth will remain open.
4. Glue the jaw back on to the head.
5. Cut the 1-½” ball in half. Glue the half balls onto the head for eyes.
6. Pinch the 1” ball between your fingers to slightly flatten the bottom and sides. Glue the ball onto the tip of the dragon’s nose, curved side up.
7. Insert a pencil into the center of the back of the dragon’s head and rotate to make a 3/4” deep hole. This is where the body will be attached.
8. Insert and glue one of the wooden dowels into the bottom of the dragon’s head.
Decorate the dragon’s head
9. Paint the dragon’s head and both wood dowels red. Paint the dragon’s mouth (and eyes, if desired) pink.
10. When the paint is dry, decorate the head using felt (eyebrows, tongue, etc.), chenille stems (antennae) and foamie sheet (teeth). You can use Kathleen’s Dragon horn & scale pattern for the horns and scales, or create your own design. (Note: To make long strips of scales using Kathleen’s patterns, repeat the pattern below without the point at the end.)
11. Refer to the photo for placement, and glue on the felt pieces. If needed, use craft pins to hold pieces in place while glue dries.
12. Glue on wiggle eyes.
13. Wrap thin, red yarn around a piece of 6” wide cardboard (or a paperback book) four times. Cut the yarn along the side where you began and ended the wrapping. Tie the yarn together in the middle with a short piece of yarn. Trim the ends of the tie yarn close to the knot. Make two more bundles in the same way.
14. Poke a small hole under the chin of the dragon using the point of the sharp pencil. Place a dot of glue into the hole. Push the knot of one of the yarn bundles into the hole with the pencil to attach the yarn to the dragon. Repeat with the other two bundles of yarn.
15. Trim the yarn so that the bottom edge is even.
Prepare dragon’s body
16. Cut off the leg of a pair of stretchy red tights at the crotch. Note: If using small size children’s tights you may need both legs to make it long enough. For smaller tights, cut off both legs, and cut the toe from one of the legs. Turn the leg without toes inside out. Slip it over the other leg and bring cut edges together. Sew the two legs together using a ¼” seam around the opening. Pull the top leg right side out again and proceed with a longer dragon body.
17. Insert a 2-½” ball down into the toe of the tights. Hint: it’s easiest to do this by holding the ball in the palm of your hand and pulling the tights over your hand as you would a sock. Add 7-11 more 2-½” balls to lengthen the body. Leave a generous amount of space between the balls so that the puppet body can move easily.
18. Wrap a small piece of chenille stems around the tights at both ends of the body.
19. Glue the toe end into the hole at the back of the dragon’s head. Trim the other end to the shape of a tail.
20. Decorate the body of the dragon with felt and pom poms. Use the photo for inspiration.
21. Insert a second dowel into the bottom of the dragon’s body. Make a tiny snip in the tights for the dowel and push the dowel directly into the ball of STYROFOAM Brand Foam.
22. Make your puppet twist and turn and curl up and down by moving the dowels in different directions at the same time.
If you’d like to build a puppet theater for your Chinese Dragon Puppet, be sure to check out the Medieval Puppet Theater. You’ll find links to a few more puppet tutorials, too.
Thanks so much for following along today. Do you celebrate the Chinese New Year? If so, how do you celebrate it?