I was walking through the living room the other day when I happened to catch my 18-month-old son making the most amazing discovery.
He had found his shadow. And he was thrilled.
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I watched him run back and forth in front of the patch of sunlight – squealing with delight as he watched his shadow run right along with him. You’ll have to watch the end of the video to see for yourself – but it was pretty clear that he had found a new friend.
Watching my little guy’s fascination with his own shadow inspired me to round up a bunch of fun ways to play with light and shadows – all are great for promoting motor and sensory development too!
10 Light and Shadow Play Ideas for Kids
1 || Fine Motor Practice With Shadows
Using a projector light or other light source to create shadows of kids’ hands on the wall is a great way to practice fine motor skills. Working on finger isolation, thumb opposition, and other hand positions using shadows is a great way to keep their attention and focus.
Try this fun finger counting song, “5 Fingers”, to exercise hands and learn common names for each finger. Kids can experiment with different shapes they can make with their fingers and hands.
2 || Shadow Simon Says or Follow the Leader
Using whatever light source you have available, create shadows of kids’ entire bodies on the wall. Choose a leader and encourage the rest of the group to watch the leader’s shadow and follow along as he moves into and out of different positions.
3 || Shadow Puppets/Shadow Theater
4 || Tracing Shadows
Have kids trace outlines of their shadows with chalk on the pavement.
Or project shadows of various objects onto paper that is taped to the wall to get some practice with working at a vertical surface. Try using letter magnets or numbers and encourage kids to trace them using correct letter construction.
Draw a picture using a dark colored marker on a clear transparency. Shine light through the transparency to project the outline of the picture onto large paper taped to wall. Have kids trace over the lines to replicate the picture.
5 || Shadow Guessing Game
Work on visual perception by creating shadows of various familiar objects and having kids guess what the objects are just by looking at their shadows.
6 || Colorful Reflections
Create a calming visual sensory play experience for kids by experimenting with shining light through Magna-Tiles and colorful water blocks. See what happens when you overlap two different colored tiles or blocks!
7 || Light Table Play
There are so many fun ways to explore light and shadows with a light table that can promote fine motor skills and other developmental skills too!
These light table activities for kids from The Artful Parent are a great place to start. Don’t have one? Create your own light table with materials you already have lying around the house (The Imagination Tree).
8 || Shadow Tag
Kids love this fun twist on the classic game of tag. Instead of touching or tagging your opponents, in this game – if your shadow gets stepped on, you’re it!
9 || Shadow Mosaic
Draw an outline of a picture on a clear transparency (e.g. a flower or a tree). Project light through the transparency to create a shadow of the outline on a piece of paper taped to the wall.
Have the child fill in the outline to create a mosaic using: colorful stickers, small pieces of colorful tape, or small pieces of tissue paper.
10 || Flashlight Tag
There is more than one way to play – one to promote visual motor skills and one to promote gross motor skills!
Head outside at night with a group of kids. Decide who will be “it” and give that person a flashlight. To tag opponents, he has to shine the flashlight on them!
Or, turn out the lights and play inside! This time, give each kid their own flashlight and have them try to “tag” each other by catching each other’s light with their flashlight on the ceiling!
Don’t miss out on the perfect companion to light and shadow play – music!
Nancy Kopman’s educational children’s music album, “Shadow”, provides the perfect musical backdrop for the activities above. It has songs about the moon, brushing your teeth, birds, spelling, breathing and more!
Be sure to check out the Music With Nancy YouTube channel for more music you can use as a tool to teach your little ones (ages 0 to 10)!