Shadow Puppets

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Shadow Puppets are a most excellent way to learn through play.

The skills that can be sneaked in are endless. Sequencing, reciprocal play, and language skills are just a few. We have used shadow puppets for creative play, fine motor (holding sticks with pincer grip) and, most importantly, to connect with children.


Once there was this little girl who really liked to be in small spaces. She would go in her closet and refuse to come out. Since she wouldn’t come out we needed to find a way to be invited in. We would try to engage her, but she rarely responded until we made some shadow puppets. She was so intrigued by the shadow puppets that she would ask for us to join her in the closet and tell stories with them. We brought in a lamp and sat cozily in the dim light casting puppet shadows on the wall, telling stories both familiar and new. We were able to encourage language, shared enjoyment, and joint attention. For children who like a quiet place without distractions, this is a way for them to feel comfortable while they learn.

Target Skills for Shadow Puppets:

  • Drawing
  • Cutting
  • Language Development
  • Shared Enjoyment

Materials for Shadow Puppets:

  • Paper (must be stiff paper or cardboard)
  • Straws, Sticks or Chopsticks
  • Tape
  • A Dark Place
  • A Small Lamp

Instructions for Shadow Puppets:

  • Draw characters on the paper and cut them out. Adding details like cutting out the eyes, nose and mouth will make more the puppet shadows more interesting. Children may need adult help to cut.
  • Once they are cut out, tape them to the end of a straw.
  • Find a dark place to sit together and turn the lamp on so that it makes a beam of light on the wall. Make the shadow puppets act out a story.
  • For beginning storytellers make familiar characters into shadow puppets and use them to act out a familiar story or song.
  • You could turn this into an alphabet game by cutting out letters and puppets that correspond with that letter. For example, You could cut out an “A” and make an apple character. Then cut out a “W” and a worm. Have fun acting that out.
  • You could also emphasize “beginning, middle and end”.
  • Puppets are a great way to explore difficult concepts or situations. If the topic is bullying act out a story that helps problem solve the situation.
Enjoy the many uses of shadow puppets!


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Learn With Play: 150+ Ideas for Year-round Fun & Learning
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