our everyday life

Shadow Puppets for Kids to Make

by Erica Loop

Treat your mini-Monet to a different type of art-making adventure, trying out a shadow puppet project. This ancient Asian art dates back to more than 2,000 years ago, and can easily translate into an easy-to-make kids' activity. Instead of doing the same old crafts day after day -- how many coloring pages can your preschooler really make? -- get your little learner's creative spirit flying with a project that combines the visual and performing arts.

Basic Materials

In their most basic form, shadow puppets require two materials: Board or paper to make the puppets and a light to make the shadow. Before you hit the art supply store to buy your puppet-making paper, think about how shadows work. When you shine a light on your little one's art work the puppet must actual block the bright rays. Pick a thick paper that absorbs or blocks the light, instead of a thinner type such as printer or drawing paper. Black card stock, poster board or cardboard all work well for this activity. You will also need a drawing tool that is easily seen on the black paper such as a white crayon or chalk, tape, a craft stick, kids' safety scissors, a flash light and a light-colored sheet or piece of fabric.

Basic Shadow Puppets

Older toddlers and preschoolers have the artistic, or rather the fine motor, ability to create basic shadow puppets. Unlike the elaborate ancient art of puppet-making, these down-graded versions use simple shapes as part of their easy-to-make design. Choose a theme for the puppets such as animals or people. Let your child pick her own character while you encourage her to select something that is more simple than intricate. For example, a cat is easy to make with its circle head and triangle ears, while a curling, curving dragon is more difficult. Help your child to draw the outline of the character or use a template/stencil. Cut the puppet out, tape a craft stick to the back and you're ready to go.

Fancy Puppets

More advanced preschoolers can create fancy shadow puppets that have movable hinged arms and legs. Instead of making one solid puppet, ask your child to break her character's body down into shapes. for example, the head is a circle, the body is a big rectangle and the arms and legs are smaller rectangles. Draw the shaped-body parts on the black paper and cut them out. Lay out the puppet, similar to putting together a puzzle, and attach the limbs to the body with brass fasteners. Instead of just using one craft stick for the entire puppet, tape a stick to each separate limb to make them move with ease.

Shadow Show

Whether your young artists makes a simple shadow friend or a more elaborate character puppet, after the crafting is over it's time to put on the show. Create a puppet stage by hanging a white or light-colored bed sheet from the ceiling or the walls. Tape or tie the sheet up and ready the backstage area with a flash light. Seat your audience in front of the sheet and go backstage with your child (and her puppets). Have your child hold the puppet up about one foot away from the back of the sheet. Shine the light on the puppet to cast a character shadow.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images