Camp Puppet Made Me Cry

by Puppet Nerd

Last year was quite the adjustment for my daughter, Jenna. Not to see her friends and having her extra curricular activities suspended due to the pandemic was tough for the 11 year old. She had even just won a spot at our school district’s Young Artists Conference. . . unfortunately, that ended up being cancelled too. But one of the sessions for that conference was going to be “puppet building”. Jenna had always done puppet shows to entertain her friends and family with purchased puppets and wanted to learn how to make her own puppet designs.

Doing what any modern person would do, I told Jenna to Google “How to make a Puppet” and guess who popped up and changed our daughter’s world? You guessed it, the puppeteer/teacher Adam Kreutinger.

Jenna was immediately captivated by the puppet making videos she saw. She started with the ‘Snoof’ pattern and within weeks had created a puppet with hand rods and created an eye blinking mechanism (words from the puppet world that I never knew).  Adam’s YouTube tutorials taught her so much. Jenna genuinely found something to keep her happy, creative, and busy during the pandemic. Of course she hit the “SUBSCRIBE” button on the Kreutinger Puppets YouTube page and visited his website often to download his free puppet patterns.

One Spring evening, a notification from Adam’s YouTube channel popped up. It was a new video called “CAMP PUPPET”. The video described the whole week of virtual puppetry fun with the YouTuber himself!

Jenna lit up. I just looked at my husband and said, “how could we not let her do this?”  This was an opportunity of a lifetime. Jenna, an 11 year old puppeteer, was going to puppet camp, virtually, with 15 other kids who have the same interest and was going to be taught by her mentor from across North America. Truly life changing.

“Mr. Adam”, as many of the mini-puppeteers called him, mailed a Camp Puppet Kit to each student. Everything Jenna needed for all the week-long camp festivities. Even if Jenna could create her own Snoofs already, the special one sent in the kit was sewn by her guru, Mr. Adam.

On the first day of Camp Puppet we set Jenna up in her puppet corner (the pandemic allowed us time to create for her) and when the zoom started, Jenna, and even her mother, were nervous. These were virtual strangers and she was going to be talking to THE Adam Kreutinger. There were kids from all over the USA as well as one boy from the east coast of Canada. Within seconds, you could see the excitement, comfort, and pure joy in her face. She was with “Her People”– people that got her, people that shared the same interest as her. People that understood her joy of puppetry.

I have to say, I never thought Camp Puppet would make me cry, but watching her so happy and hearing about the other kids with a passion for puppets, a diverse group of kids with all different backgrounds, some with unique health challenges, brought me to tears. Puppetry is truly for everyone. It was emotional, beautiful, and so much fun.

Adam guided them through the daily 2 hours sessions for the whole week. But the final day was extra special. It was finally time for the compilation of the student skits they had created. Adam added some fancy video editing effects to the kids performances, the finale was amazing.

It was sad that the week had to end. But new confidence and a spark in Jenna’s puppet future was lit. Adam offered his Camp Puppet campers to keep in touch to ask any questions, and we sure have done this. Jenna has continued to share her puppetry journey with him.

Since Camp Puppet, Jenna has created over 50 puppets, some were made from paper towel rolls, bath towels, thrift store blankets and now some from professional materials where Adam suggested getting puppet supplies from. She even made a life size puppet for her Halloween costume! It was a hit on the streets of our neighbourhood.

Jenna has made puppets for birthday gifts, created puppets that look like my friends, taught a few friends how to make their own, entertained the kids she babysits, and has incorporated her puppets into class homework assignments and even the school’s virtual Christmas Concert. 

Jenna’s amazing Grade 6 teacher has encouraged her to use her puppets during these assignments. Jenna did her Passion Project on Puppetry, explaining the mechanisms used to create Janett, her dragon puppet.

To see how brave and confident puppetry has made her, especially at her age where she can be teased and emotionally scarred for “playing with puppets”. Her classmates have fully accepted Jenna and her puppets. I am sure this is not always the case with “doll wigglers” but with Adam Kreutinger on her side and his Kreutinger Puppets – Tutorial Q&A page, she continues to soar. Jenna is able to share her puppets on my social media and gets rave reviews from my friends (We are not ready to allow her to do social media on her own, yet). People look forward to her next build or performance. Puppets truly spark joy in kids and adults.

To put it simply, puppetry and making puppets has changed her life path, I am sure of it. She doesn’t know what she wants to do yet, but she knows if she is a pediatrician, she will incorporate puppets into her practice to make children more comfortable. If she does puppet shows for birthday parties, great. If she goes into show-biz on a puppet show on TV, watch out! When she is receiving her Emmy for Best Children’s Show, she will first and foremost thank Mr. Adam Kreutinger, her mentor/puppet teacher extraordinaire…..ok, and maybe then she will thank her Mom too, I am her biggest fan! Who would have thought that a virtual puppet camp, Camp Puppet, could foster such creativity, pride, and passion! We are grateful for Adam Kreutinger, truly.

The only question Jenna has now is, “when is Adam’s inaugural Camp Puppet going to have a reunion?” She would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Written by Heather Kansky

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