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Shadow Theater: Monster Shadows

Create a large shadow theater and make shadows that look like monsters.  

Materials and Preparation

For Large Shadow Theater:

  • desk lamp with a 100-watt bulb (or a slide projector)
  • a large white sheet
  • 2 chairs
  • 4 large binder clips or tape

For Monster Shadow Puppets:

  • art supplies: crayons, markers, scissors, tape, Popsicle sticks or straws
  • camera

Prepare large shadow theater ahead of time:

Set up the large shadow theater by draping a sheet across two chairs that are a few feet apart. Use binder clips or tape to attach the corners of the sheet to the top and bottom of each chair and make sure that the sheet is stretched tightly. Place the lamp behind the theater so that it shines through the sheet.

Key Science Concepts

  • 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.
  • You can combine shadows to make different shadow shapes.
  • Indoors, you can change the size of a shadow by moving your body or the object closer to or farther from the light.
  • Shadows grow bigger and fuzzier as the object moves closer to the light source, and smaller and sharper as the object moves farther away.


Encourage children to use vocabulary related to shadows, such as lamp, light, shine, outline, shape, move, and direction. Emphasize science process words like describe, compare, notice, and observe.


Tell children that they will make shadow puppets of monsters and then put on a play.

  1. Have children draw a monster puppet out of construction paper, and then cut it out. Ask, What could you do to make your monster really scary?
  2. Have them tape a Popsicle stick or straw to the back of their monster puppet as a handle.
  3. Have children test the shadows their puppets cast. Testing their puppets may give children new ideas for modifying or changing them. Ask, Is this how you wanted your puppet to look? What could you do to make it look even more like a monster?
  4. As children complete their puppets, let them give performances behind the large shadow theater. Have children switch between performing and sitting in the audience to see what each other’s puppets look like in the theater.
  5. Now invite a few volunteers to use their monster puppets to make a short play together. If children want, they can also use their hands to make monster puppets or other characters.
  6. Document the performances by taking photos or videotaping.

Reflect and Share  

After everyone has had a chance to perform a play, ask,

  • How are the monster puppets and their shadows similar? How are they different?
  • How would you make your monster puppet’s shadow giant and fuzzy in the theater?
  • How would you make your monster puppet’s shadow tiny in the theater?

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