Tag Archives: story telling

Storytelling with Shadow Puppets

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.

outdoor shadow puppet theatre

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.

home made shadow puppets

I also found images of hand shadows. I printed and laminated them and stuck them  on the swing set frame for reference.

hand shadows

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, like mud are a great, free play resource – check out some of our other shadow explorations or follow my shadow and light pinterest board

Monsters and Imaginary Friends – Back with a Vengeance.

imaginary friends

A while ago I wrote about my middle daughter’s pre-occupation with monsters in Monsters and Imaginary Friends.

The monsters haven’t gone away.  In fact we have more monsters now, her sister has her own monsters that sometimes come out at night to steal her things.  There are monsters that come if we can’t leave the big light on in her bedroom.  Sometimes there are nice monsters who help people , they are called names like fluffy and softy.

The imaginary friends have also developed to become a permanent fixture in our house.  It began with Emily.  Emily would regularly come for a sleepover and often it is Emily’s birthday. Emily’s story has become more elaborate, she now has a brother called Jack who often visits too and today we were introduced to a host of pets (3 dogs and 5 cats).  In the car a few days ago I was told that Emily’s mum and dad were dead and so she lives with her nanny and grandad.

I love the way that the stories are evolving, it shows how her imagination is developing and that she is beginning to understand the conventions of storytelling. Interestingly she sometimes tells me that Emily is just pretend.

A new study into imaginary friends at the University of Durham cited that children with imaginary friends are usually aware that others can’t see them and it is  the child’s behaviour  that makes other people  aware of their existence.   The imaginary friend  helps children to know that their knowledge is privileged.

The researchers presented children aged 4 -8 years with cards on which they wrote their own name, mum or dad and their teachers name. They then had 3 boxes, a large one labelled knows a lot, medium sized box labelled knows a little and a small box labelled doesn’t know anything.  The children were given questions such as

When you are ill how much does your mum know about you being ill?

When you are ill how much do you know about being ill?

The children with imaginary friends were most likely to describe themselves as having the most knowledge.  Having an imaginary friend gives children opportunities for self-examination.  The children with imaginary friends saw themselves as an authority on interior aspects of self such as dreaming and on those which adults could judge (illness, hunger and having fun). It could be that imaginary friends help children to understand that their internal world is private. (Davis,Paige, Elizabeth 2011).

If this is the case then how much more is going on in her little head that she decides not to share? A wonderful reason to get 3 year olds to start telling and recording stories.