One way to make your favorite Sesame Street characters come to life is by putting on your own puppet show with finger puppets.
I’m a member of the original generation that grew up with Sesame Street, and the characters, songs, and books all bring back tons of memories for me.
Finger puppets are usually easier for little hands to use, and several characters (I mean, who wants just one?) cost less money and take up less space than hand puppets.
Here are some cute finger puppets of some of my personal favorite Sesame Street characters, plus the songs that go with them.
(Once you have your puppets, be sure to check out my related post about puppet theaters for kids.)
Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster Finger Puppet
Cookie Monster’s origin begin in 1966 when Jim Henson drew three monster-characters for a General Mills commercial (which was never aired) who would steal and gobble up different snacks.
The blue monster known as the “wheel-stealer” in that commercial was featured the next year in an IBM training film, and then as “Arnold the Munching Monster” in a commercial for Frito-Lay potato chips. It wasn’t until the first season of Sesame Street that he became known as the Cookie Monster.
The original sketch was for “C is for Cookie” was made in 1971 and was one of the few Sesame Street sketches that was directed by Jim Henson.
“C is for Cookie” from Sesame Street
Big Bird Sesame Street Finger Puppet
Amazingly, the character of Big Bird has been portrayed by the same actor, Caroll Spinney, since 1969 (plus some understudies). The costume was originally built for Jim Henson, but it was decided that he didn’t walk like a bird. Frank Oz (the voice of Cookie Monster, among others, was offered the role, but turned it down because he hated performing full-body characters.
This song was on a Sesame Street record album that I had when I was a kid:
“ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ” from Sesame Street
Ernie Sesame Street Finger Puppet
The characters Ernie and Bert were designed with the idea that two people can be very different and still be good friends — in fact, they are said to be based somewhat on the relationship of Jim Henson and Frank Oz.
Interesting, the two of them were the only Muppets that were in the Sesame Street pilot — and the only part of the pilot that test well with screen audiences. After that, it was decided that not only would Muppet characters “star” in the show, but they would also interact with the human characters.
Ernie — “Rubber Duckie” on Sesame Street
Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch Finger Puppet
Oscar the Grouch — who was originally orange! — was inspired by a restaurant waiter who was so rude and grouchy that Jim Henson found him kind of amusing.
The trash can that Oscar lives in must be a lot bigger than it looks — according to Oscar, it contains a swimming pool, ice-rink, bowling alley, and a piano!
Oscar the Grouch — “I Love Trash”
Sesame Street’s Grover Finger Puppet
In his earliest form, Grover appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on Christmas Eve of 1967. At the time, he had greenish-brown fur, a red nose, and a raspier voice, and was referred to as “Gleep”, a monster in Santa’s workshop. In fact, Grover wasn’t blue, or known as “Grover,” until the second season of Sesame Street.
Frank Oz, who does Grover’s voice, says, “I like Grover because really, he’s wiry. He’s tough. He gets emotional. But also he tries very hard to help people, and do things right, to the extent that he doesn’t use contractions in his words.”
Grover — “Near and Far” on Sesame Street
Update: When I first wrote this post, I didn’t even realize that was a nursery rhyme song specifically for using Sesame Street finger puppets. Here it is!