Light and shadow have an aura of mystery that intrigues preschoolers whose minds are full of curiosity about the world around them. When you turn light and shadow science into a game, your child's play becomes a learning experience that's fun for the whole family. From active movement activities to quiet art activities, you and your child can bond over light and shadow learning in the guise of quality family time.
Light and Shadow Scavenger Hunt
By preschool age, your child is keenly observing the world around him and trying to make sense of how things work. Make the most of this natural curiosity by taking a walk together, inside or outside, and trying to find as many sources of light as possible, including the sun, streetlights, porch lights, car headlights, neon signs, overhead lights, flashlights and glow sticks. You can also look for interesting shape shadows or see how many square, rectangle or circular shadows you can find. Look for the shortest, tallest, widest and skinniest shadow.
Shadows on the Wall
Shine a bright lamp on a blank wall and let your child experiment with what happens when she blocks part of the light with various objects or her own body. Let her use different props to create different shadow shapes on the wall. See how many shapes you can make using two or three people.
Light and Shadow Theater
Light and shadow make for entertaining dramatic play time. Help your child make some thin cardboard stick puppet with striped, polka-dotted and zigzag designs cut into the body. Create a shadow theater by hanging a white sheet over the open side of a large appliance box with one side cut out. Shine a bright light onto the sheet and have your child hold his puppets between the light and the sheet to see how the shadow mimics the cut-out design in the puppet. If you cover the cutouts with colored tissue or cellophane, your child can discover that shadows can have color too. Give your child free play time to create and tell stories with the shadow puppets.
My Own Shadow
Finding their own shadows delights many young children. Get outside to look for your shadows on the sidewalk and wave at them. Ask your child how she knows which shadow is hers and help her notice that the shadow mimics whatever she does. Get silly and see what else you can make your shadows do. Trace your favorite shadow poses in sidewalk chalk or lay out a length of black poster paper and trace the shadows on there. Cut it out for a shadow friend that can go wherever your child goes, night or day. Compare the length of your shadows at different times of day. Trace the shadow of a fence post, tree or bush and go back later to see whether the shadow has moved.
Cut shapes out of black construction paper or allow your child to tear the paper into a shadow shape of his choice. Glue the shadows onto white construction paper and draw a sun. Use a light projector to create a silhouette image of your child and mount it on a white backdrop. Your child can add his own touch to the picture by gluing or drawing pictures around the sides that show things that are important to him such as his family, his pets and his favorite toys. While you are creating together, you can talk about how shadows only show a person's outline but you can't see the parts that make him special with your eyes, only with your heart.
- Illinois Early Learning Project: Fun at Home with Preschoolers: Play with Light and Shadow
- Science World British Columbia: Reflections and Shadows Science for 3- to 5-Year Olds
- PBS Kids: Super Fab Lab Investigation: Shadow Investigation
- PBS Kids: Super Fab Lab Investigation: Light Scavenger Hunt
- Everything Preschool: Preschool Shadows Theme
- WGBH Educational Foundation: Peep and the Big Wide World: Explore Shadows
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images