Here’s a list of fun educational shadow activities and science experiments for kids that contains fun ways to play with shadows while learning about light and shadow.
Shadow activities and experiments can help children learn what a shadow is and how shadows are formed through experience. This list of interactive indoor and outdoor shadow activities for toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners, and elementary-aged kids is perfect for groundhog day–and year-round fun at home or in the classroom. Summer break is also a great time to play and learn with shadows.
What is a Shadow and How is it formed?
A shadow is made when an object, plant, animal, or person blocks light. The thing that blocks the light must be translucent or opaque for a shadow to form because light can pass through transparent objects.
Light travels away from the source in straight lines. When an object blocks a light source, it creates a shadow. Shadows fall away from the light and form in the opposite direction of whatever is blocking the light source. This means that three things must be present to make a shadow.
Three things are needed to make a shadow:
- a source of light.
- an object to block it.
- a surface behind the object for the shadow to fall upon.
The sun is a natural source of light, while a lamp or a flashlight is an artificial source of light. And the size and shape of a shadow depend on the size and position of the light source compared to the relative size and angle of the object blocking the light.
Related: Outdoor Activities for Kids
7 Educational Shadow Activities and Science Experiments for kids
This list of educational shadow activities and science experiments that make learning fun! Try any of these shadow play ideas and experiments as a hands-on way for kids to learn more about the sun, shadows, and the science of light. These fun shadow activity ideas are great for groundhog day and year-round learning fun!
1. Play with your shadow
There are so many fun ways to play and learn with your shadow. The imagination is an endless source of inspiration. Have a tea party with your shadow, play games with your shadow, or invite some friends to play shadow tag!
How to Play Shadow Tag
Shadow tag is best played outdoors on a sunny day. The main idea is to step on another player’s shadow in order to “tag” them.
- Start by selecting the player that will be “It” or the “tagger.”
- Before starting play, decide if there will be a “base” or place where players can be temporarily safe from “tagging” if they need a minute to rest and where this “base” will be.
- On the word, go!, all players try to keep their shadow from getting tagged by the person that is “It,” while the player that is “It” does their best to step on another player’s shadow to “tag” them.
- When another player is tagged by “It” or the “tagger,” that player then becomes “It.”
- Play continues until the players decide to end the game of shadow tag.
Chasing Shadow Play
My daughter’s favorite playtime activity with her shadow is to be chased by it. Whenever she notices that her shadow is following her on one of our daily walks, she shrieks with joy and tries to run away from it as if it were chasing her.
She continually looks over her shoulder at it as she runs, chirping with excitement and giggling with joy–Oh, to be a kid again!
2. Dance with your shadow
Put on some fun music in a sunny outdoor area where children can see their shadows and have fun dancing with them. Feel free to add in shaker eggs and other musical instruments of choice.
Add in more fun by turning off and on the music and having your kids freeze when the music stops. Your kids will have a hard time not giggling at their silly frozen shadows. Looking for kids music that won’t drive you nuts? Click on the link!
3. Experiment with Shadows
Blocking different light sources with different types of objects at different angles will form different kinds of shadows.
Encourage children to experiment and have fun playing and learning with shadows. Invite children to try any of the simple shadow experiments listed below.
- Play with natural sources of light versus artificial sources of light.
- Experiment with casting shadows onto different surfaces such as walls, floors, or tables.
- See what happens when you move objects at different angles.
- Experiment with the difference between translucent, transparent, and opaque objects.
4. Human Sundial Shadow Science Experiment
This shadow experiment for kids is both fun and educational. Making human sundials with my classmates in elementary school was so much fun I decided to give it a try with my daughter as a homeschool lesson. She loved it! Pop over to have a look at our Human Sundial Shadow Science Experiment to learn how to conduct your own.
5. Make Shadow Art
Making art with shadows is another fun shadow activity for kids. Shadow art can be done indoors, with artificial light, and outdoors in the sunlight.
There are two primary ways to create shadow art. One way to create shadow art is by tracing or drawing shadows to create shadow art.
Another creative way to make shadow art is by making shadow sculptures that cast realistic shadows on a wall, table, or surface. Shadow sculptures are fun to make with random objects, pieces of wood, paper, and even junk!
You can use anything with a bit of creativity to cast artistic shadows upon a wall, floor, or another surface. Some of the shadow art in the video below will blow your mind!
Indoor Shadow Art Instructions
- Choose a light source to cast shadows upon objects, etc.
- Find an object, or objects, to block the light and create shadows with them.
- Either create art with the shadows similar to the sculptures shown in the video, or, trace and color the shadows to create art.
Shadow Art Supplies for Tracing and Coloring Shadows:
Use any or all of the following to draw or color shadows to create shadow art. Look at this list of the best art supplies for our favorite recommendations.
- Drawing paper, watercolor paper, or poster board
- Colored pencils
- Chalk paint
- Tempura paint
- Watercolor paint
- Acrylic Paint
Outdoor Shadow Art Instructions
Bring art supplies outside to an area where the sun is shining and look for shadows to trace, shade, or paint. Place a piece of paper under the shadow, pick your artistic medium of choice, and get creative!
6. Make Shadow Puppets
Making shadow puppets is another form of shadow art that makes experimenting with blocking light and creating shadows fun for kids.
Invite children to block light with their hands and arms to cast animals and other fun shapes onto a wall, screen, or curtain. Simple shadow puppets include a dog, a bunny, and a bird. The video below shares how to make shadow animals with your hands–watch it with the kids!
7. Take Pictures of Your Shadow Antics
This shadow activity is always a hit with my daughter. You can see some of our shadow fun in the photo of our family in the shadow below.
Taking pictures of your shadow can be tricky, and it’s hard to find a way to take a picture without seeing the camera in the photo. In the image below, I was holding my daughter’s point and shoot camera at my chest.
It’s also hard to take pictures of other people’s shadows without finding some part of your own shadow in the frame, but it is sure is fun to try!
Shadow Science for Kids
The educational activities and shadow science experiments for kids listed above are a hands-on way to learn about shadows, the sun, and the science of light.
These interactive outdoor shadow activities for toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners, and elementary-aged kids are perfect for groundhog day and year-round fun at home or in the classroom!