Make a ‘Jumping Jack’ Puppet

I love moving toys, especially those from the Victorian era, and one of my favourites has to be Jumping Jacks. Also known as ‘Dancing Puppets’ or ‘Pantins’, Jumping Jacks have been around for thousands of years.

The earliest versions of this style of toy are thought to be from Egyptian times. However they were very popular in many different parts of the world in the past including France, Poland and India. In Victorian England children would buy them from toy shops and street sellers, but some children would make them themselves.

Inspired by the example images I found, I decided to make a fox puppet wearing a suit, because why not! This tutorial takes you through the steps to make your own puppet of your choice, but you can also download the ‘Jumping Jack’ Fox Puppet template at the bottom of the post.

To begin, draw your puppet out on a piece of paper. You will need to draw the head and body together. Then draw the upper arms, lower arms, upper legs and lower legs separately. You may find it easier to sketch the whole puppet out roughly, then use this drawing to get your dimensions right. 

Each body part should be drawn so it overlaps with the adjoining part. 

Now enjoy painting your puppet! I used watercolours for my puppet but gouache and acrylic would work, as would colouring in or collage.

Next, cut your puppet parts out.

Lay them all out as they will join up, and make any changes needed. I trimmed lots of bits off mine, as I decided I wanted to use simpler shapes then my original drawing.

Mark your paper fastener holes using the sheet below as a guide. Note that the upper arms and upper legs should have two holes, one above the other.

Punch the holes.

And fasten everything together! On the upper arms and legs the paper fasteners should go through the bottom holes. Make the paper fasteners quite loose, as you want the limb to fall back into place if you lift it.

Turn your puppet over and it should look like this:

Now to the stringing. Tie a piece of thread tightly around the top hole on the top of one arm. 

Leaving a small amount of slack, tie the other end to the opposite side and trim. 

Repeat on the holes at the top of the leg.

Now take a long piece of thread, and knot in the middle of the tread joining the arms.

Keeping the thread fairly tight, knot this same piece around the string between the legs.

If it looks like this you’ve done it brilliantly and your puppet should work!

I then taped a knotted piece of thread to the head to hang my puppet from.

And threaded some beads on the bottom of the string.

You now have a fully operational Jumping Jack puppet! Enjoy!


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Please decide for yourself if your child is old enough for the activity and supervise them while creating. I just enjoy sharing creative ideas for people of all ages 🙂

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