Marionettes are puppets that are controlled from above by strings or wires. The controller pulls on the strings vertically using a horizontal control bar.

The marionettes shown in the image gallery below are held in the Museums Victoria collection. They were made in Australia in the mid-1900s.

Learning outcomes

In this activity children will:

  • state that simple objects can begin to move when we pull on them
  • respond to and pose questions, and make predictions about familiar objects and events.


  • What are these toys called?
  • How old do you think some of these marionettes are?
  • What are some interesting things about these toys?
  • How would you play with these toys?
  • What would you need to do to make each of these marionettes move?


  • Science is often about making careful observations and then explaining how simple things work. Can you describe how these marionettes move using the word push or pull?
  • Science is also about asking questions about simple things that we observe. If the controller pulls up on a string to move a limb of the marionette upwards, then what will happen if the controller lets go of the string? Why does this happen?
  • These marionettes move when the controller pulls on the strings. Do you think the controller might need to push this toy at all to help it move?
  • If we could not see the controller of the marionette then how would we know that a pull has been applied to one of the marionette strings?
  • What is the difference between a push and a pull?


Movement of the marionettes relies on the controller pulling up on the strings. The controller is the person manipulating the toy. The design of the marionette may assist students in visualising when a pull is applied. The movement of the marionettes provides evidence that a pull or push has been applied to the toy.

These toys also rely on the pull of gravity to move. Gravity pulls downward, working in the opposite direction to the pull applied by the controller. The marionettes may be used as a teaching tool when considering the effects of objects being pulled towards the Earth.


  • Students may construct their own marionettes to further explore how simple toys such as marionettes react when pushed or pulled.
  • Encourage students to observe how different strengths of pushes and pulls affect the movement of the marionettes.

Evaluate students' understanding

  • Students create short dramatic scenes with the marionettes through which they demonstrate their understanding of push and pull forces.

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