I recently cleaned out the linen cupboard and gave the kids a huge bag of old sheets to play with. They like to make-up stories and turn them into royal capes or build dens with them. In amongst them was a white sheet. I thought it could be used to build a shadow puppet theatre in the garden. We have a swing set that isn’t safe to use, so I removed one of the swings and fastened the sheet to the frame.
The children and I made puppets from cardboard. The children chose characters and I helped them draw them in silhouette. They collected sticks from the garden, whittled them to smooth them out and stuck the cardboard characters on with tape.
I also found images of hand shadows. I printed and laminated them and stuck them on the swing set frame for reference.
We had to do a bit of work cutting back the tree branches to make a clear screen, but soon it was ready. The magical stories they have created have been wonderful. I think this would be a great resource for a school or pre-school to encourage story telling and build the foundations of story writing. You could build it outdoors or inside with a light source behind.
Videoing the story showed the children where they needed to improve. They saw that sometimes you couldn’t see the characters well because they were too low or placed at an angle. They also noticed that the size of the puppet changed according to how close to the screen it was.
I love the way my daughter played with accents and voices. It particularly love the voice of the bird and banana man in the land of the forgotten.
Shadows provide extraordinary educational opportunities. Not only do they raise a spontaneous curiosity in the child, stimulating his imagination and exercising his emerging intellectual abilities but they are also omnipresent (even more than sand, stones, water or “pencil and paper”, because you only need a bit of sunlight or even a candle to produce them). Perhaps more effectively than other things, shadows can nourish the child’s need to do and to experiment given the ease with which the variables involved in their formation and transformation can be manipulated.
( Guido Peter – The Hundred Languages of Children)
My youngest has become increasingly fascinated by shadows. As we walk along she shouts
I can see your shadow
my shadow is long
With this in mind I thought it would be a nice idea to make shadow shapes and draw around them with pavement chalk. Some shapes worked better than others, my youngest daughter’s shadow looked a little like an embryo!
The girls drew around them. They were particularly interested by the fact that they couldn’t see the whole of their legs. It was a very hot day so only my 4- year- old wanted to colour in the detail. They were very proud of them and pointed them out to their dad every time he walked over the driveway.
drawing around shadows
The finished outline
the finished drawing
My 4- year -old has very poor eyesight and needs practice copying and tracing shapes to enhance her perceptual motor skills . I hate the idea of sitting her down with worksheets so I thought shadow tracing might be a nice alternative. We took a number of objects outside to draw around. We even attempted to draw around her bike, which was a little tricky.
Later in the week we were playing with blocks in the house.
My 2-year old declared
I have a shadow, it’s behind me
Where is the shadow coming from? What makes it appear?
Maybe the fan.
Okay, so let’s turn the fan off and see if they disappear. Has it gone?
My 4-year-old had an idea
I know maybe it’s the light, let’s turn it off. It’s gone!……………oh hang on it’s still there, it’s just fainter.
Shall we see if we have a shadow outside today?
We don’t have a shadow……. Oh wait, when you sit down there is a bit of a shadow.
When we sit down there is a bit of a shadow.
Why do you think that happens?
I don’t know. Let’s see if there are any shadows on the grass. No, not even the dog.
Do the trees have shadows?
Yes and the bushes.
investigating shadows near to the ground
My 2-year-old had an idea,
Maybe the sun has taken away our shadows.
No, that’s not right because the sun makes the shadows.
Maybe when the sun is not there it takes them away?
I know, let’s draw a sun and see if they come back.
I know we can stand in the sun and make it bright colours to see if it comes out.
In the meantime my 9-year-old came to join us. I told them the girls had a bit of a problem that they were trying to solve and wondered if she could work it out.
Why is it that when it is cloudy there are no shadows but when things are close to the ground there is a small shadow?
Maybe it’s because it is darker when you are close to the ground
But there is no sun and you need light to make a shadow.
Yes, but if it was dark I couldn’t make a shadow because it couldn’t get darker.
If we were in the sun and it was too bright what would we do?
Stand in the shade.
What makes the shade?
So what is happening to make the shade?
I don’t understand.
I drew a picture of the sun in the sky with a stick person stood underneath and a tree with a stick person underneath the tree.
Oh, the tree gets in the way of the sun.
At that moment as the girls were standing in their picture of the sun, the sun came out.
I think we might work on reflections as a starting point for our pre-school year . We could
Resurrect the shadow puppet theatre
Use the projector to make and investigate shadows
Place paper on the windows and observe and trace shadows
Continue to talk about and ask questions about shadows when we are out and about.