Rod Arm Puppetry 101

Rod arm (or hand) puppets are designed so that their arms hang naturally and often come with some type of a wrist band and a metal rod. This allows you to move the hands and arms to give the puppet a more lifelike appearance.

Arm rods open the door to making your puppet more lifelike, but there are a few cautions when using them. The major one is that if you move your puppet back and forth, it will cause the rods to start swinging. If, in your play, a puppet gets angry or overly excited and starts bouncing up and down, the rods can fly around and poke someone in the face or eye. If your puppet is going to bounce around, hold the ends of the rods in your free hand so they don’t get out of control.

Before each program it is a good idea to prepare the puppets and lay them out behind the stage so they are ready when needed. If you just stack them in a pile, the rods can become entangled with other puppets. Then when you pick up your puppet, you pull others along with it. If the rod catches on the puppet’s eye, it can loosen the glue and even pull it off. Believe me, it is not fun to pick up a puppet during a performance and discover that its eye is missing. Been there. Done that!

To properly set out the puppets before a program, lay the puppet down and fold its arms across the front of it so the rods are lying side-by-side on the puppet. Then, when you pick it up, one hand can grab the rods and the other hand pick up the puppet.

Also, if possible, it’s best to store the puppets without the rods attached. Some wrist bands make that difficult, so if you must store them with the rods, be careful where you place the rods so you don’t damage any puppets.

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