Here's a simple trick that is guaranteed to instantly impress toddlers up to and beyond the age of thirty.
All you need is a pair of gloves. Don't worry, you won't be sewing them, gluing them or in any other way damaging them at all. Once you've finished playing with your puppet, you'll have your gloves back again unharmed.
NB: Digital googly eyes have been added for comic effect. Your gloves might not actually contain these.
Step 1: Choosing the Right Pair of Gloves
OK, so not all gloves are entirely suitable for this project. You're looking for a material with a bit of thickness to it but also plenty of flexibility. Metal gauntlets, for example are a no-no. Latex gloves are also not ideal.
Fingers are also pretty useful for this project, both on your hands and on your gloves. If you use fingerless gloves, you can still make this puppet, but it will have fleshy arms with fingernails where its hands should be. Mmm, creepy. I cannot take responsibility for any emotional harm incurred by anyone who attempts to make this puppet using mittens.
Patterned gloves are fine, possibly even desirable. We're lucky enough to live in a society in which stripy and tartan puppets are accepted as equals, even if they don't necessarily enjoy the same legal status as other puppets. Gloves with tags, studs and other piercings can make for slightly punkier puppets.
Different gloves will yield puppets with different personalities. Experiment!
Step 2: Making the Head
Decide which hand you want to use to control the puppet. I recommend using your dominant hand unless you need it to perform some other task such as driving, surgery or lockpicking at the same time as using your puppet. E.g. "Why yes, officer, I am trying to open the door to this jewellery store in the middle of the night, but on the other hand [geddit?] look at this delightful little glove puppet!"
Whichever hand you choose to use, you'll be using the other hand's glove to make the head.
Start by laying the glove out palm-up in front of you. If your or somebody else's hand is still inside the glove, remove it now and either discard it or save it for later.
Fold the glove's thumb inwards across its palm.
Fold the fingers down so that the fingertips meet the base of the fingers.
Fold the fingers over again as if making a very tight fist.
Keep rolling the glove up until you've only got half an inch to an inch of glove sleeve left.
Fold the remaining sleeve back up over the rolled up bulk of the glove.
If any fingers have come loose, tuck them back in.
Congratulations, you've given birth to the head! As in real life, that's the hardest part over with.
Step 3: Adding the Body
Don your remaining glove.
Bring your thumb over your little finger as if making the Scout salute.
Use your naked hand to roll the sleeve of the glove up so that it covers your thumb and little finger.
Decide which end of the head you want to use as the puppet's face, then stick the middle finger of your gloved hand into the opposite end.
Step 4: Breathe Life Into Your Creation
This step is ideally achieved while standing silhouetted against a thunderstorm and cackling maniacally, but ultimately such details are nothing more than aesthetic luxuries.
Hold up your be-puppeted hand.
Flex your middle finger. Your puppet just nodded!
Wiggle your forefinger and ring finger. Look, it's waving its arms in the air like it just doesn't care*!
Experiment a bit. See what emotions you can elicit from your puppet. After a while, try easing its legs out of their little nest and letting it waddle awkwardly across a tabletop like an Alien queen detaching from her ruined egg sac. For some reason, many children will find this either hilarious or terrifying. I think today's youth are generally poorly equipped to deal with the concept of a glove puppet sprouting legs and advancing upon them. Go figure.
*Strictly speaking, it doesn't.
Step 5: Timing Is Everything
Unleash your puppet when people are least expecting it.
I was once sitting on a mostly empty bus on the way to a job interview, wearing a suit and looking for all the world like a respectable member of society. Two seats in front of me a young mother sat with an inquisitive toddler peeking over her shoulder. I quickly made a puppet from a pair of gloves and used it to wave over the seat to the child, who responded with wide-eyed amazement and frantic gesturing.
As soon as the mother turned around to see what had caught the attention of her as yet linguistically unskilled child, I immediately hid the puppet behind the seat and stared dourly out of the window. As soon as she turned to face forward again, up came the puppet and wide went went the child's eyes. And so a game ensued whereby the toddler persistently tried to convince its mother that something uncanny was going on behind her while the mother became increasingly flustered and apologetic for the fact that her child refused to stop pointing at me and yelling in excitement.
I'm not sure what lesson the toddler took away from this experience. Perhaps a sense of wonder at the endless mysteries constantly presented by the confusing and ever-changing world around us. Perhaps just a deep resentment at the general unfairness and uncontrollability of life. Either way, I enjoyed myself.
Let me know what you get up to with your puppets! Pics or it didn't happen.