Shadow Play

Use scientific inquiry skills to figure out why shadows appear.


4 Books:

  • My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Oscar and the Moth by Geoff Waring
  • Day Light, Night Light by Dr. Franklyn M. Branley
  • Guess Again by Mac Barnett

Activities: Cat in the Hat: Stick Puppet Shadow Play, Peg + Cat: Shadow Matching Cards

Materials: Solar powered flashlight and Cat in the Hat shadow puppets

Read Together

Asking your child questions as you read helps them think about the story and encourages them to ask their own questions. Here are some sample questions to ask your child as you read My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson.

  • Show the cover illustration to your child. What do they notice?
  • Read the title, author and illustrator. What do they think the book is about?
  • In this story you will look at pictures of a boy and his shadow. Talk about what you see and what the boy says about his shadow.
  • Ask your child to compare the object making a shadow to the shadow’s shape.
  • Think about the many ways shadows can change and what causes a shadow to appear different.

Play Together

Playing with your child can be fun for them and for you, and asking questions will help your child learn.

  • Create shadows on a wall. Use finger puppets to make shadows. Tell a story to go along with the adventure of the puppets.
  • Explore shadows outside at different times of the day. Stand in the same spot and use chalk to outline a shadow in the morning, afternoon, evening. What happens to the shadow?
  • Make shadows with objects or your body. Make the shape change. Can you make your shadow scary, happy, small, large or silly? Can you make the shadow resemble a dog, lion, bird or dinosaur? Can you make shadow shapes using your hands?
  • Shine light through transparent (clear) and translucent (colored) objects. Can shadows be created?
  • Play shadow tag. Go outside (make sure you have shadows showing.) One person is “it.” Rather than tagging the person, the person who is “it” must step on the other person’s shadow to tag them.
  • Investigate how light and dark can cause shadows to change. Observe that a shadow is created when an object blocks the light.

Online Activities

Play PEEP and the Big Wide World: Shadows and Shapes and watch PEEP and the Big Wide World: Night Light. Download the PBS Parents Play and Learn Science App for more shadow fun.

Can you match the PBS KIDS character with his or her shadow?


Quack and Peep find a flashlight and have fun making shadows.


Explore the shadows made by objects in Chirp's collection.


Play with shadows; control the weather; and send objects down a ramp.

CPB Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Education Iowa PBS
PBS Kids
The contents of this document were developed under a cooperative agreement #PRU295A150003, from the U.S. Department of Education. However, these contents do to necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.