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Big and Little Shadows

Move objects close to and far from a light to make big and small shadows.


  • desk lamp with a 100-watt bulb (or a slide projector)
  • wall to project shadows onto
  • chart paper taped to the wall
  • markers
  • chart, “How a Shadow Changes”

Key Science Concepts

  • 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.


Tell children they will be doing an experiment making big and small shadows with a lamp.

  1. Have children make shadows with their hands using the lamp’s light. As children explore, have them describe what they are doing and how the size and appearance of the shadows are changing.  Look how the shadow changes as you move your hand closer to the light. How is it changing? How can you make the shadow smaller and less blurry?
  2. Challenge children to make the biggest and the smallest shadows they can make with just one object.
  3. Ask a volunteer to trace the smallest shadow the group could make onto the chart paper attached to the wall. Then ask another volunteer to trace the biggest shadow the group could make.

Reflect and Share

Gather the children and look at the two shadow tracings together. Ask,

  • When did the shadows look fuzzy? When did the shadows look clearer?
  • What happens to the size of the shadow when you move closer to the light? What happens to its size when you move farther away?

Write down children’s observations on the “How a Shadow Changes” chart.