Activity time: 10 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A light source such as a slide projector, a spotlight or a lamp with a high wattage bulb and no shade
- Optional: Large white cloth or paper, and tape, tacks or string to position the material as a screen
Preparation for Activity
- You need a screen for shadow play. Use a blank wall or hang white paper or cloth as the screen. The screen should reach the floor, and need not be higher than the children's heads. Hang the screen on a movable coat rack, or attach it to the backs of two tall, straight chairs. The light source will be behind the screen, along with the children making shadows. The audience will be in front of the screen. Leave space for children to move safely when they are playing with shadows "backstage."
- Have one adult stay near the light source to make sure children do not get too close to it.
- If you cannot darken the room, find another place for this activity, perhaps a hallway where the light will be dim.
Description of Activity
- Tell the children they are going to play with something that is real but cannot be held in their hands. Rather than tell them they will be playing with shadows, you might want to pose a riddle:
- What does everyone have on a sunny day, but not when it's raining?
- What goes outside with you, but doesn't come inside?
- What is something you can't run away from?
When the children solve the riddle, ask them what they need to make a shadow (a light source, an object that will cast a shadow, and a surface on which the shadow can be cast.) Explain that we can see shadows, so we know they are there, but we can't feel them. Note that they can change shape, and even disappear!
Tell the children that they will now have a chance to play with shadows. Show them the light source, and explain that they must be careful not to touch it because it is hot and breakable.
With the light source behind the screen, allow one or two children at a time to go behind the screen with an adult watching to make sure they are not too close to the light source. Invite them to make shadows for the other children to watch.
Encourage them to:
- Make their shadows grow and shrink.
- Make shadow letters of the alphabet.
- Think of different body parts they can use to make shadows. It's all right to take shoes off and make shadows with toes!
You might invite two or more children to make a group shadow sculpture. Or, invite the "audience" to make requests: "Make a bunny. Make an angry shape. Make a curvy shape. Make a ball bounce."
Make sure everyone has a chance to make shadows.
If you have time, invite three volunteers to perform a short shadow play, acting out the parts of the grandmother, Nelson, and the lost, crocheted blanket from the story, The Real Gift.
Give the children a few minutes' notice before ending the shadow play, and turn off the light source to end the activity.