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Shadow Puppet Show

Create a large shadow theater and shadow puppets to put on a play.

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 Shadow Puppets:

  • art supplies: crayons, markers, scissors, tape, Popsicle sticks or straws
  • camera or video recorder
  • timer (optional)

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 make shadows with your body and other objects.
  • A shadow shows the shape of an object, but it doesn’t show colors or many other details.
  • 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 vocabulary related to shadows like light, shine, outline, shape, solid, dark, performance, audience, and shadow puppet. Emphasize science process words like describe, compare, notice, and observe.


Tell children that they will make shadow puppets, which they’ll use to put on a play.  

  1. Decide whether you want children to work together or individually in putting on a play—some may prefer to put on their own play while others may want to work together as a group.
  2. Tell children to think of a story they’d like to create in the large shadow theater and which puppets they will need to tell their story.
  3. Have children make puppets, adding a handle and testing out the puppets to make sure the shadows look the way they want them to look.

Tell children to get ready to put on a puppet show! (You may want to invite parents to attend the show. If they can’t make your show time, encourage their child to put on a little show for them at pick-up.)

  1. Have the performers (either individual children or groupings of children) put on their puppet shows.
  2. To make sure everyone has a chance to perform, you might set a timer that goes off after two or three minutes, a signal to encourage children to wrap up their plays.
  3. Document the children’s shadow puppet shows by videotaping them.

Reflect and Share

Gather children to reflect on their shadow puppet shows. Ask,

  • How did you use the shadow puppets to tell a story? What things could you make your puppet’s shadow do?
  • What do you wish your shadow puppet could do that it couldn’t?
  • What’s the difference between using shadow puppets and regular puppets? What can you do with shadow puppets that you can’t do with regular puppets? What can you do with regular puppets that you can’t do with shadow puppets?

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