our everyday life

Physical Shapes & Shadow Activities for Toddlers

by Rebecca Bagwell, studioD

Toddlers are creative scientists because they discover new truths every day. Whether experimenting with the patience level of the family pet or measuring whether that toilet paper roll will stretch across the house, toddlers enjoy learning. Harness some of that energy into productive activities in learning how shapes and shadows work together.

Guess that Shape

Hang up a thin sheet and use a flashlight to shine on different block shapes to cause their shadow to appear. Toddlers might like to hold the flashlight and experiment with what makes the shadows change shapes. Use the flashlight to cast their own shadow on the wall behind them and let them choose which objects he thinks will make interesting shadows on the wall or sheet. Eventually, put him on the other side of the sheet and see whether he can name the shapes based on the shadows he sees.

Shadow Tag

Play shadow tag outside on a sunny day. Run around and try to land on someone else’s shadow. Because the shadows will always keep moving, no one will win. At the park, see whether your toddler can move by only staying in the shadows of the trees, shrubs and playground equipment. Go around and study the shapes of the shadows you find and ask whether the shadows are bigger or smaller than their object. Your toddler might find it interesting that objects keep the same shapes but don’t keep the same size shadows.

Shape Stories

Create a shape story on a wall or sheet using any object your toddler can find. Use a flashlight inside or the sunshine to cast shadows on the wall or bed sheet and move the objects around so that they tell a story. Your toddler can join in by holding up some of the props and add to the action. Use your hands, arms, or even feet as well to add shapes to the story. Encourage your toddlers to describe the shapes and shadows they are making and the details they imagine.

Outdoor Art

Create shape sponges with your toddler to do some outside art. Dip the various shape sponges in washable paint to create a picture on the pavement. Trace the shapes with sidewalk chalk and ask if your toddler can draw the shape using the sponge’s shadow. If you can, have your toddler stand still for a few moments while you quickly outline his shadow in chalk. Have him help you color his shadow in to make a mirror image of himself.

About the Author

Rebecca Bagwell is an educator with a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Trinity Baptist College. She has taught in China and the United States. While overseas she started writing articles in 2006 for bilingual trade journals. Now, she lives in the South where she homeschools and writes freelance articles encouraging creative approaches to education.

Photo Credits

  • Medioimages/Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images