Recently, we had you making trilobites and other ancient sea creatures as fingerpuppets. In this session, let’s add some danger to the trilobites world with some large prehistoric fish…..

These wonderful animals lived at many different times so do your own research to decide what might have been swimming down the street where you live 300 million years ago:

Dunkleosteus: 5m long with jaws that could crush. Our limestone here in the Peaks is Carboniferous in age – about 300 million years while Dunkleosteus belongs to a slightly older time but they are so spectacular….

Coelacanth: 1m long with wonderful fins like stumpy legs – and these are still around today. You can find film of these beautiful fish on the internet with their fins that rotate and flare and move in fascinating ways….

Ancient sharks: modern sharks are often sleek, elegant swimmers (with some exciting exceptions like Wobbegongs), in ancient times, sharks were more experimental. Look at Stethacanthus with its sort of hat, Edestus with its sticking out teeth, Sarcoprion with its strange pointy jaws or Helicoprion the buzz-saw shark. 

To make a fingerpuppet fish or shark…

You will need

➤ Card: old birthday cards or cereal packets work well

➤ Scissors

➤ Pencils or pens for drawing and colouring

➤ Glue

➤ Paperclips or tape or stapler – or all of these

➤ Wobbly eyes maybe

Decide first, are you making a fish with a deep body rather than the shark with a more or less straight back

Fish: Step 1

Fold your card in half long-ways and draw your fish on one piece of card: make your drawing as long as a finger – or more. A good measure is to try to make one as big as your hand. Leave off any paired fins – so keep on the tail and back (dorsal) and belly (ventral) fins. Cut out the fish, cutting through both pieces of card. Keep the scrap card.

Step 2

Set your fish shapes nose to nose and decorate them.

Step 3

Out of the left-over card, cut out some side fins (pectoral and pelvic) Glue these in place on your fish – just glue the “body” end of the fin. Hold in place with a staple or a paperclip.

Step 4

Fitting it all together: turn your fish over, put a bit of glue at head and tail (X) and join together. Again, hold in place with a staple or a paperclip. Make a ring out of card to fit a finger. Wiggle this gently into the middle of your fish and glue, tape or staple it into place. Generally, position the ring so that when the fish is on your finger it is pointing forward – so the ring opens backwards.

Step 5

Start swimming. Chase a trilobite!

Shark: Step 1

Fold your card in half and draw half a shark body (no fins or tail) against the fold. Happy shark? Grumpy shark? Cut out the shape (DON’T cut along the fold). Open your shark flat onto your table.

Step 2

Decorate your shark. Using scrap card cut a pair of pectoral fins (long ones that sit just behind the gills (remember sharks often have more than one gill slit).

Step 3

A curving triangle will give you a dorsal fin. Cut up the centre of the fin’s base – maybe 1 cm and open these tabs out. They can glue on the back of the shark or if you have someone who can use a craft knife around, cut a slit and fit the fin on the inside of the model.

Step 4

Fitting it all together: another bit of card might be needed to draw your sharks’ lopsided (asymmetric) tail. Cut along the fold on your shark and slide the tail into that slot. Glue and staple or paperclip in place. Fit a ring just like the fish above.

When all the glue is dry, fold fins out, fit fish and sharks onto fingers and start swimming!

(Belemnites: these slender squid-like animals that swam through the limestone seas of ancient Derbyshire can be made like the sharks above, fitting some extra curly tentacles at their heads…..)

Now put your animals on your fingers and set off through your ancient seas! If you have a garden, you might go exploring (chasing ammonites? Hunting for trilobites?) Through the undersea flowerbeds of the Back Garden Ocean. Past the lair of the Terrible Worms (= compost heap), over the Muddy Wellington Boots of Despair. No garden? How about a swim across the sandy seafloor of The Bed, clamber over the Coral Reef of Cushions, slide down the Book Mountains and onto the Carpet Wastes…..

This is another of a number of posts replacing activity sessions which we have had to cancel and we’ll be publishing these activities on a regular basis, let us know what you think!

A Finger Full of Fish is a Creeping Toad event in conjunction with Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and Stone and Water. Based in Buxton in the Peak District, we all collaborate and support each other as we can, working closely with the Babbling Vagabonds and The Green Man Gallery. If you enjoy this activity, try visiting the others for more ideas!

We’d love to see your Trilobites! Share them with us on our social media channels:




Have fun and stay safe everyone 💪