Practical Sheet #19

Playing with shadows


Playing with shadows is almost certainly one of the oldest ways of telling stories. It has a very positive impact on the child’s emotional and intellectual development and meets its primary need – to express himself by playing

There are many ways to play and exploit the shadows… And we propose you a few of them! 




The Shadow Theatre is a form of multisensory narrative that involves children from various points of view: auditory, visual and emotional. It can be considered an effective tool that embodies the enchantment and magic necessary to involve children in the story. The teacher will use shadow theatre for storytelling, which suggestions will be amplified by the environment itself, a place in semi-darkness where a light will represent the vital energy of the characters in the story. 

This technique is very attractive for children and they are usually curious to experiment this form of storytelling afterwards, at the teacher’s invitation. 

This form of narration can be used in two different ways. The first is with the use of a real theatre and the second, more simply with the use of a white wall. 

The theatre can be easily made up of a semi-transparent, backlit screen on which the shadows of the silhouettes are projected. This medium allows, if desired, to diversify the materials and colors with which to create the silhouettes and sets. The use of the white wall, while simpler, requires some more practice to coordinate movements and consequently the storytelling. 

Children can also be involved to create and realize the various silhouettes of the characters of the story. This activity will allow the children to continue the storytelling in a subliminal way. 


It is very important that the teacher knows how to use this technique, to create the right suggestion and transform the movements and shadows into a real visual support for words. Thus, the teacher will have to practice in how to make the story fluid and flowing, by identifying the salient moments of the story that will be emphasized by small light effects: for example, moving the light in a circle, or bringing it closer and further away from the outline to make the shadow smaller or larger. These experiments will serve not only to tell the story better but also as a teaching topic for the children. 

After telling the story, the teacher could invite the children individually or in small groups to become storytellers, by using this technique, which allows to create a real “positive filter” between the narrator and the listeners. The expressive difficulties of children due to learning difficulties or simple shyness can in fact be overcome through this technique which will allow children to “hide” behind this instrument.  

Before the narration of the story children could be involved in the creation and realization of the silhouettes of the various characters. 



1. Creation of the puppets of the main characters of tale.
Draw a character’s profile outline on the card (at least 200 gr) and cut it out. Glue a stick on the silhouette.


2. if you don’t have a stage of shadow theater, you can project puppets directly on the wall with flashlight.
Make attention to have a dark room!


3. If you have a stage of shadow puppet theater you can place it in the room to allow pupils to play with the shadows and puppets.



In the game of ” Chinese Shadows” only our hands and a lamp (a small light source) are needed. This technique before being a narrative technique is a game, the ability, thanks to skillful positions and “joints of hands and fingers” to create figures and characters. 

In addition to arousing enchantment and wonder, this game helps to develop fine motor skills in children, i.e. the ability to control the small movements of hands, fingers, face, mouth and feet and thus improve the level of hand-eye coordination. 

Children are fascinated by shadows: the shadow is our first company, the companion who never leaves us. Being able to create them is therefore a stimulating and funny game, even movements or unsuccessful shapes can become an inspiration and stimulation to tell and invent something different, but above all this game allows to become familiar with one of the most important fears for children, that of darkness. 


You will need a small light source and will have to create a darkness in the room. And of course you will need a white wall and ” expert” hands. 

A light source illuminates only the hands, shadows appear on the wall and everything looks more beautiful and magic! 

There are short manuals that teach how to create animals and various figures, just do a little practice before staging the stories!

Source: The Art of Shadowgraphy – How it is Done by Trewey (1920)