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Shadow Shapes

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Children are always fascinated by their shadows! In this activity brought to you by The GIANT Encyclopedia of Science Activities for Children 3 to 6young children will trace shadows, including their own, as they learn more about how light & shadow work. This activity is also a great way to get outside with children in the winter months as they explore science concepts outside the classroom that they can carry with them back into the classroom.


  • Shapes
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Assortment of familiar objects such as a key, comb, button, scissors, pencil, flower, paper clip, coin, glue bottle, etc.
  • Overhead projector

What to Do

  1. Introduce the concept of shadows by taking the class outside on a sunny day. Say, "Look at the shadows that our bodies make on the pavement. When I lift my arm, my shadow does, too. When I jump, my shadow jumps, too." Explain that their bodies make shadows because the sun's light cannot go through them so it goes all around them to form an outline.
  2. Take chalk and draw around the shadow of each child. Ask how they can tell that a shadow is of a person and not of a chair or other object.
  3. Go back inside and set up the overhead projector and screen (an empty wall space works fine, too). The familiar objects you have chosen should be concealed and then placed one by one on the overhead projector. Have the children guess what the object is by its shadow shape.
  4. Ask the children if they notice any change in the color of the shadow when the objects are changed. Point out that shadows are always black.
  5. More to do—Art: Shine a light source on a child's profile. Trace the profile on black paper using a white crayon or chalk. Have the child cut it out and mount it on light-colored paper.
  6. More to do—Movement: Tell the children they are going to do a Shadow Dance. Shine a light source on the wall and put on some music. Have the children dance between a blank wall and the light source. They can watch their shadows dance with them.

Book: The GIANT Encyclopedia of Science Activities for Children 3 to 6
Center: Outdoors
Topic: Shapes
Content: Science
Area: Gross Motor
Age: 3 through 4 Years Old
Interaction: Large Group

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