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ideas for hand puppet with limited hand strength


My son is a huge Jim Henson and Muppet fan and we are planning to make our first hand and rod puppet. He has a condition that limits his range of motion in his fingers and hands that also affects his hand strength as well. The best description I can provide would be that in his hand he has motion in his thumb and index finger, but his other three fingers are stiff. So he can do a pinching movement if that makes sense. 

We have a handful of premade hand and rod puppets like the Muppet Whatnots, but he can barely move the mouth because of the dense foam and stiffness.

As we start experimenting and building our own using BJ's course I'd love to hear your ideas on ways we could mod it so the mouth movements would take less range and effort. 

Thanks all!


  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    One thought that comes to mind would be to use a cable linkage to control the puppet's mouth, rather than his fingers.  The challenge there is it would be a bit more complicated to build.

    This is just a quick first concept, but you could use a cable linkage inside the puppet that opens the mouth when the cable is pulled.  The other end of the cable housing could be attached to a vest or harness on the chest.  The end of the cable would have a handle (either ball or bar shaped, depending on what is best for his grip) that could be pulled downward to open the mouth.  This would rely on his arm strength rather than his finger strength.

    I would also try and design the mech so it can be inserted into any puppet (with a handle or grip where he can hold the mech and support the puppet) that way it could be inserted into different puppets, giving him more freedom.

    In part 2 of BJ Guyer's "How to make a foam puppet" series he shows how to design a cable controlled mouth mechanism for his muffin puppets.  That design might work for this application, with some minor modifications.

    If you have any design questions or need any more information I'm happy to help.


  • Brilliant! I'll check it out. Thanks Chris!
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