Make: Paper Leaf Stick Puppets for Fall

Our yard is chock-a-block full of bright yellow maple, elm, and ash leaves, and our art table is awash in autumn-inspired leaf projects (have you seen our autumn-leaf-inspired magic wands or leaf-matching flipbook yet??).

The other thing we happen to have in spades this year is sticks. For the first time ever, my new yard is filled with COLOSSAL old trees – so along with the fall leaves, it’s a near-constant rain of twigs.

An orange maple leaf stick puppet made with paper scraps and nature supplies! | via barley & birch


Fall weekends are the perfect time for a rummage through the ‘ol leaf pile to see what might be hiding at the bottom. After gathering up a collection of sticks, bark, and leaves, we started playing and ended up with this expressive trio. Made into stick puppets (with a little help from the new BIG leaf templates in our free printable leaf activity kit) we’re almost starting to regret bringing them to life, as they haven’t stopped re-enacting how close they came to being buried alive under a foot of October snow. Quite unbe-leaf-able, really (wink!).

Send the littles out for a nature collecting adventure while you print and cut out our free template (that’s it for prep!) then have a (fall) ball building fanciful faces on your puppets together…

For our paper leaf stick puppets you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*

BASIC SUPPLIES:

FACE DECORATION:

  • Leaves, twigs, acorns, or other natural supplies
  • Paper scraps
  • Other decorative supplies (cabochons, sea glass, googley eyes, etc.)

DIY Paper Leaf Stick Puppet Instructions:

  1. Print our free large leaf templates or draw your own leaves

    Download and print one (or two, or three!) of our full-page leaf templates. Color and let dry if necessary.

    Download, print, color and cut out our large leaf templates. | via barley & birch

    We used watercolors to create pretty washed leaves in bright fall colors, but you can use tempera paints, crayons, oil pastels, coffee – anything you prefer!

  2. Cut out your leaf templates and begin building faces

    Carefully cut out around your large leaves. Gather small nature finds, scrap paper, loose parts, and other craft supplies to begin creating faces on your leaves.
    Gather loose parts, nature finds and other craft supplies to create your leaf stick puppets. | via barley & birch
    We used a glue stick to glue on twig and bark eyebrows, scrap paper eyes, stone cabochon pupils, mouths & noses cut from leaves. Play around with the placement and materials to make different expressions!

  3. Use a glue gun to affix to a stick

    Once you’re finished making your leaf faces, use a hot glue gun, craft glue, or strong tape to affix your leaves to the end of a stick.
    DIY leaf stick puppets made with paper scraps and nature supplies! | via barley & birch

This is the kind of project kiddos can easily lose themselves in – trying different combinations of supplies and building endless funny faces. The best part is that this simple art project is just the beginning. Once the puppets are complete, creative story-telling and imaginative play can begin.

An oak maple leaf stick puppet made with paper scraps and nature supplies! | via barley & birch

For another way to celebrate fall leaves with your littles, try making an incredibly simple (but stunning!) gradient leaf banner. Or try a very unique art-making process with our photocopied fall leaf collages using a totally unique and unexpected process.

Itty-bitty autumn-revelers might enjoy making mouse mail, or practicing counting and colors with this DIY super-soft felt tree and rainbow leaves.

Our DIY leaf stick puppets are made with paper scraps and nature supplies! | via barley & birch

Love this download? Try our Nature Explorer Printable Pack! Filled with pages of outdoor observation and exploration prompts, it’s perfect for hours of self-led nature learning and play.


*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon or Woodpecker Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click-through to make a purchase, we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

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Amanda E.
With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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