Challenge the children to make a shadow puppet and use it to tell a story in a shadow theatre.
Early Learning Goal links
- Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present
- Understanding the World ELG: People, Culture and Communities
- Understanding the World ELG: The Natural World
- Expressive Arts and Design ELG: Creating with Materials
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Light, dark, shadow, source, block, change, shape, travel, long, short, big, small, straight, solid (opaque), see-through (transparent), translucent (you can see light through it but not clear shapes)
How to make a shadow puppet
Draw the shape you want on card. Cut out your shadow puppet shape or cut out one of the shapes from our shadow puppets templates.
Attach the lolly stick with tape.
Use the light source to create a shadow on the screen or wall. You may want to make a simple shadow puppet theatre.
How to make a shadow puppet theatre
- Position the box so the largest surfaces are at the front and back.
- Open the box at the back and cut off the flaps.
- Use a knife or sharp scissors to cut out the front of the box, leaving a 4 – 5 cm frame around the edge.
- Use tape to attach tracing paper or greaseproof paper to the inside of the box, completely covering the hole.
- Shine a torch or other light source through the box from behind. You can rest this on a shelf, table or chair and secure this with tape if you need to.
What to do
Tell the children that they are going to be lighting technicians. You could show them the lighting technician poster. They are going to be creative. They need to create the best lighting for different types of shows and events. For this activity they need to find the ways to create the best shadows on the wall, screen or in the shadow puppet theatre for a shadow puppet show. They will then need to use their puppets to collaborate and make a show.
Questions to ask to support and extend learning
- How do you make a shadow?
- What shape is your shadow?
- Are shadows always the same shape?
- How do you make your shadow bigger or smaller?
- How do you make your shadow clearer or fuzzier?
- Where is the best place to put your light source?
- Where is the best place to put your shadow puppet?
Other things to try
Remember to refer to the children as lighting technicians and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:
“You have been creative like a lighting technician to make your puppet…”
“Well done, you have collaborated with your friends to create a puppet show …”
The science of shadow puppets
We have put together some useful information about the science of shadow puppets to accompany this activity. Don’t worry, this is for your information only and to help you answer any questions children may have. We don’t expect you to explain this to the children in your setting!
How did you make that shadow?
Shadows are made by blocking light. Light rays travel from a source in straight lines. If an opaque (solid) object gets in the way, it stops light rays from travelling through it. An opaque object absorbs the light. This results in an area of darkness appearing behind the object. This is a shadow!
What does opaque mean?
Objects that absorb and block all the light coming from a source are opaque – hands, thick card, solid toys are all opaque. It describes any object you can’t see through.
How do I make shadows bigger and smaller?
To make a shadow grow bigger, move the object you are using closer to the light source. will get fuzzier in appearance too. To make a shadow grow smaller and sharper, move the object further away from the light source.
What you’ll need
- Pre-cut card shapes or card for children to make their own shapes
- Our shadow puppet templates (optional) printed onto card
- Lolly sticks
- A light source such as a torch or projector
- A wall or screen to project on to or a shadow puppet theatre.
For a homemade shadow puppet theatre, you will need:
- A large cardboard box
- Sharp scissors or a knife to cut the box with
- Tracing paper or grease proof paper
- Sticky tape
- The lighting engineer poster
- 10 minutes or so to make the shadow puppet theatre
- 5 minutes or so for the children to make a simple puppet
- 10 minutes to play in the shadow puppet theatre