Adele has been a youth librarian for 20 years. She enjoys reading stories to kids and performing puppet shows.
An Easy One or Two Person Puppet Show for Christmas
This puppet play is about seven minutes long and is designed for children ages two to six, though it could work for an older audience as well. You will need an animal puppet, an elf (which can be printed onto card stock), and some jingle bells. It works best to have two people performing, but it can be adapted for a one-person show.
Items Needed to Perform the Show
- one puppet
- one elf
- Set of numbered cards (optional)
- Set of “12 Days of Christmas” cards (see links after play)
- one small table
- one tablecloth that reaches to the floor
- Jingle bells
You can simply find a picture of an elf on the internet, print him (or her) on card stock, cut it out, and attach to some sort of rod. I think this elf clip art from Tim's Printables would work quite well. It has good resolution at a large size.
If you'd like something, more 3-D, you can use an Elf on the Shelf. I've used the Elf on the Shelf Plushee Pal. He's a little bigger and seems less creepy to me. Attach him to a sturdy dowel with some red ribbon, and you're ready to go.
For the performers on stage, you can just fashion a set of bells by tying them together with some yarn. If you want to hand bells out to the audience, I’ve used jingle bells from Lakeshore Learning. My library has had them for about 10 years now, and they are quite sturdy, as well as easy for the children to handle.
Script for “The 12 Days of Christmas–Surprise!”
(If you like, have a version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” playing as people are assembling for your puppet show. The Narrator sits in a chair in front of the puppet stage—or table—with the numbered cards in her lap. The dog puppet and the elf are worked by someone who is behind the stage/table. See notes at the end of this script for notes and tips about props and how to set up the performance area.)
Narrator: Let’s see, there’s one partridge and two turtle doves, and nine lords a-leaping, or is it 10 lords a-leaping?
Rover: Hi there (insert narrator’s name here). What are you doing?
Narrator: Oh, hi Rover. I’m trying to remember the verses of this song I’m going to sing. It’s called “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It has twelve verses. It’s really hard to remember.
Rover: Oh, twelve. That’s easy. I can count to twelve. Watch: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12!
Narrator: That’s very good, Rover. But I have to remember things with it, not just the numbers.
Rover: Oh boy. That is hard. Can I help you?
Narrator: Well, maybe you can. I’ve made some cards to help me. Maybe you can quiz me, and see if I remember. I put them back where you are.
Rover: Let’s see. (Looks down.) Oh, I see. You have the numbers with you, and then down here (motions behind puppet stage) there are some animals that go with them.
Narrator: Yes. Let’s start with number one and see if I can remember what goes with it.
Rover: Alrighty. Let’s get started.
Narrator: (holds up number one) That’s easy, one is a partridge in a pear tree.
Rover: Right! (Brings out picture of partridge in a pear tree and gives to narrator.)
Narrator: (holds up two) Two is two turtle doves.
Rover: Two turtles coming up. (brings picture of two turtles)
Narrator: No, it’s two turtle doves. They’re birds.
Rover: If they’re birds, why are they called turtles?
Narrator: Just bring up the pictures. (He brings up picture of turtle doves and gives to narrator. Then the narrator holds up the number three.) That’s three French hens.
Rover: (brings up picture of three French hens) We’re up to four already.
Narrator: (brings up number four) I remember this one, too. Four calling birds.
Rover: There sure are a lot of birds in this song. Let me go find them. (Rover goes behind stage to find picture. The narrator needs to be looking out into the audience. The elf appears when the Narrator isn’t looking.)
Elf: Jingle bells!
Narrator: No, there are no jingle bells in the song.
Rover: (brings up picture of calling birds) I didn’t say anything about jingle bells.
Narrator: Oh, Rover, I heard you say “jingle bells.”
Rover: No I didn’t.
Narrator: Well, never mind. Let’s go on to five. (holds up five) Hmmm. Five. Is it geese a-laying?
Rover: Nope, it’s golden rings. (brings up picture) That is cool! I’d love to have five golden rings.
Narrator: (brings up picture of six) Oh, that’s right. Six is geese-a-laying.
Rover: More birds! Birds, birds, birds! (Rover goes behind stage to find picture. Again, narrator looks out into the audience. The elf appears when the Narrator isn’t looking.)
Elf: Jingle bells!
Narrator: (frustrated) Come on, Rover. You’re getting me confused. I already told you, there aren’t any jingle bells in this song.
Rover: (brings up six geese a-laying picture) And I already told you, I didn’t say “jingle bells.”
Narrator: Well, then, who did?
Rover: I don’t know, maybe an elf did.
Narrator: Look around. Do you see any elves? (Rover makes a big show of looking up and around, but not down. Then, he says, confidentially) Maybe he’s sneaky.
Narrator: Well, whatever. Let’s keep going so I don’t forget. I think I remember, seven is swans a-swimming, and eight is maids a-milking.
Rover: All right, that’s a lot of things to bring out. Hold on. (frantically brings things out.) There’s your seven swans and your eight maids.
Narrator: (brings out nine) Nine is lords a-leaping. Or is it ladies dancing? Oh, I can never remember.
Rover: I’ll go see. (Rover goes behind stage. Narrator is fiddling with pictures. The elf appears when the Narrator isn’t looking.)
Elf: Jingle bells!
Narrator: How many times do I have to tell you, there are no jingle bells?
Rover: (brings out pictures) It’s nine ladies dancing and 10 lords a-leaping. And how many times do I have to tell you, I didn’t say “jingle bells”?
Narrator: (still looking into the audience) Yes, you did. You said (imitates elf’s voice) “jingle bells” like that.
Elf: (appears when neither the Narrator or Rover is looking in the elf’s direction) Jingle bells!
Narrator: See there you did it again.
Rover: No I didn't. There's someone behind me.
Narrator: (turns and looks) No there isn't. (turns back around)
Elf: Jingle bells. (Both narrator and Rover turn to look, but elf isn’t there.)
Rover: That is so weird. I am sure I heard someone behind me.
Narrator: (to audience) I think Rover is trying to play a trick on me. He's the one saying "jingle bells" isn't he? (Children are likely to be objecting strenuously saying, “Look behind you!”)
Narrator: I already did look behind me. There’s no one there.
Elf: (behind both narrator and Rover) Jingle bells!
Narrator: (looks around) See, no one but Rover.
Elf: Jingle bells!
Rover: (looks back and sees him) Look, it is an elf! I did see him
Narrator: (turns to look back. Elf is gone by now.) I don't see anyone. (turns back to audience) And I think all of you in the audience are trying to play a trick on me, too.
Elf: Jingle bells!
Narrator: (turns around, then turns back to the audience) I still don't see anything
Elf: Jingle bells!
Narrator: (turns and finally sees elf) Oh! I saw him! You were right! It is an elf.
Rover: I told you so!
Narrator: I'm sorry Rover. I hadn't seen him before. (turns and calls behind puppet stage) Little elf, little elf. Will you come out?
Elf comes out
Narrator: Why are you saying "jingle bells" so much?
Elf: I have jingle bells for you. And you. (hands a group of jingle bells to Rover and the Narrator)
Narrator: Isn't that nice? Now we each have our own jingle bells.
Elf: We can sing the jingle bells song.
Narrator: I’d love to do that. Rover and I were just finishing with one last thing. (holds up 12) I’m trying to remember what’s in the song for number twelve.
Rover: (brings up picture of drummers) It’s drummers drumming.
Elf: And jingle bells jingling.
Narrator: Now that we have these bells, we can sing “Jingle Bells!”
If you have jingle bells to give out to the audience, hand them out now. I like to play Raffi’s version of “Jingle Bells,” but you can certainly do it a capella or use another recording.
Notes for a Two-Person Puppet Show
If you are doing a two-person puppet show, have one person behind a puppet stage, or a table with a tablecloth that reaches to the ground. This person will work the animal puppet and the little elf. My animal puppet is a dog, so I've named him Rover in this play. Feel free to use whichever puppet you have, and give it a name of your choosing.
The narrator will sit in front and to the side of the puppet stage and talk to the puppets. If you are the narrator, you can put the script on your lap or on the table so that you can read it easily.
To change the names in the script, you can just select the text, then copy and paste it into a word-processing program. After that, use the "Search and Replace" function to change the name "Rover" to whichever name you would like.
Notes for a One-Person Puppet Show
If you are doing a one-person show, you can put a lap puppet on your right hand. Lap puppets usually have the whole body of an animal and have a place near the head or the body to give more of an illusion that the animal is sitting on your lap and moving its head around.
On your left side, include some sort of stage prop that obscures your hand so that you can lift the elf up from behind it. You can wrap a fairly large box to look like a present and set it on a small table on your left side. Then the puppet can appear from behind the box. See the photo below for a recommended setup.
Don't worry about trying to be a ventriloquist. All stories involve a willing suspension of disbelief, and your audience will be willing to see the puppet talking if you "sell" it. A tip I learned from a nationally-known storyteller is to just make sure your eyes are focused on the puppet while it is "talking." If you are looking there, your audience will, too.
I use these cards to emphasize the numbers with young children. If you want to simplify the play, however, you can just have the narrator say the number, but not hold anything up. Print them on card stock and put them on dowel rods, skewers, or Popsicle sticks to make them easier to hold up. These cards will go in the narrator’s lap to hold up at the appropriate times.
These images are loaded as photos. To capture them, click on the photo, right-click and copy, then paste them into your word-processing or picture program and print. You can size them as you like.
Sources for Pictures of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"
Here are some quick and easy sources of graphics for this play. See below for a photo showing how they've been printed on card stock and then attached to a rod.
Twelve Days of Christmas Flash Cards This is one of the easiest templates to use because they are in color and already sized to print four on a page.
DTLK Twelve Days of Christmas I reduced the size of these a little so I could get two on each page.
Twelve Days of Christmas Playing Cards Here are some more that are already sized. Since they are meant to be playing cards, this site prints out two of each one.
© 2017 Adele Jeunette