Shadow Play

October is the perfect time of year (where we live) to play with shadows. We spend time on the playground, on our asphalt driveway, and wherever else we go looking for and exploring shadows.
One of my earliest “learning” memories of my kids was my son chasing light on the floor of our living room. The light floods in through the windows differently in winter than summer, and we get these “patches of light”. He was fascinated, at around 11 months, with how the light was on the floor but wasn’t really there and with how he could manipulate those patches by holding his hand over them.

We now play in a similar way, holding objects up to our walls to see how the light changes. It offers great opportunities to talk about opaque, transparent, translucent, angles of refraction, and more.


We love watching our shadows change on swing sets. The length of certain body parts, what’s visible from different directions.



It’s fun to compare the shadow to the original. Why might the shadow seem wavy if the board seems to be straight? Why is the shadow at an angle? 


One of my daughters is obsessed with flashlights, so we set up various objects in front of the light to see what they create.


Our driveway is perfect for shadow observation. We use chalk to draw each others’ outlines (and then fill in the details) and to mark the shadows of the trees at various points during the day. We play a version of “freeze tag” where if someone steps on your shadow, you’re frozen and the “home base” is anywhere your shadow is hidden by tree shade.


Shadows offer accessible introductions to how light moves, the change in the sun’s angle because of earth’s rotation (and revolution), and great opportunities for line drawing. And kids love them too. 

Your turn: how do you play with shadows? 

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