Light and Shadow

One of our favorite before bed activities is playing with light and shadow. We have the perfect little bedside lamps from IKEA that are movable so we can cast light in whatever direction we please.

Our play with light started in early toddlerhood when Ruby discovered light switches. You know what I am talking about! Light on! Light off! Repeat 1,435,768,784 times. Light switches on walls, lamps with simple switches, night lights that cast stars around the room have all been big hits.

We can happily spend 1/2 an hour on shadow play in the evening. We look at our shadows. We try to make each other laugh. We move our body in different ways to see what happens. Sometimes we dance to music. Sometimes we jump on the bed. Other times we just experiment.
How can you make your shadow bigger?
How can you make your shadow smaller?
Can you make your shadow look like the letter Y?
Can you make your head disappear?
Can you make yourself look like a duck?
The experiments are endless and so are the giggles.


We made our own shadow puppets. You can use any image by tracing a picture on cardstock, cutting it out and taping it to a popsicle stick. I used a hole punch to make the eyes.

We also have some purchased shadow puppets that are more complex. They were a gift from Grams because Ruby loves the Eiffel Tower. They have been heavily used and while a bit delicate have held up for well over a year.


These shadow puppets are fun to experiment with but they are also fun for bedtime stories. It started with me telling stories with the puppets but Ruby quickly wanted in on the action. It is fun to listen to her storytelling skills improve over time.

Playing with shadow and light can also be as simple as playing with a flashlight. It is a big treat when the flashlights come out. Even going for a walk to the mailbox becomes a grand adventure when you add a flashlight. Build a fort, crawl through a tunnel, explore under the bed: All of these activities are awesome with a flashlight. Flashlight tag with older kids can also be a lot of fun as can simply exploring the backyard or going for an evening walk.

Light tables provide another opportunity for playing with light and shadow. Sensory play with sand, salt or even water beads becomes more interesting with the soft glow of a light table. Magnatiles are awesome and are really in my top 10 toys for young kids but they are especially fun on a light table. It adds a new element to engineering a tall tower.

Magnatiles and Light

Once you begin exploring with shadow and light, your play will not just be at bedtime. It will be anytime you can make shadows and have a little fun.

Turning a shadow into the letter Y

What kinds of light and shadow play does your family find fun?

experimenting with shadow at the science center

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