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Hand Shadow Puppets

Make shadow puppets with your hands.

Materials and Preparation

For Mini Shadow Theater:

  • shoeboxes (or other cardboard boxes), so that there’s one shadow theater for every two children
  • wax paper or white paper
  • tape
  • scissors

For Hand Shadow Puppets:

  • tall, flat surface to place theaters on (desk, table, etc.)
  • flashlights, one per pair of children
  • camera

Prepare mini shadow theater ahead of time:  

  • Using the bottom of a shoe box, cut out a large rectangle from the bottom panel, leaving about a 1½-inch border around the edges. Cover the opening you made with wax paper (or white paper) and secure it with tape. This is your theater.
  • From the other, open end, you’ll prop or hold a flashlight inside the box and shine the light on the paper. 
  • Place an object between the flashlight and the paper and see its shadow projected on the outside of the theater.

Key Science Concepts

  • A shadow is made when an object blocks the light.
  • You can change the shape of a shadow by moving and turning your body or the object making the shadow or by moving the light source.


Encourage children to use words like shadow, puppet, theater, lamp, light, shine, outline, shape, and dark. Emphasize science process words like describe, compare, notice, and observe.


Tell children that they will be making shadow puppets with their hands. 

  1. Have children work in pairs and invite them to think of shadow puppets they can make using one or both of their hands. Encourage them to make puppets that can move. 
  2. Have each child demonstrate his or her hand puppet in the mini theater. Then see if their partner can imitate his or her hand puppet.  

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