Playing with Shadows

Bring shadows to life with the ancient art of Shadow Puppetry


Age range: Good for 10-14 year olds

Estimated Time: Give yourself some time! This interactive takes about 30 minutes to complete.

Key Technology: You can use this on a computer or whiteboard—but you will need speakers (or headphones) for the music parts and Flash Player version 7 or higher to view the site.

This interactive explores the ancient art of Shadow Puppetry. You will learn how to make your own puppets, set up a screen and lights, and create your own shadow plays. Check out the interviews with real puppeteers and watch videos of shadow plays for inspiration. Use the Puppet Studio to create digital shadow plays. Unleash your imagination and see where it can take you!

Think About...

Before you get started, think of what you already know about shadows and the properties of light. Keep this in mind as you explore the interactive.

Some pages let you click and drag to explore the properties of light and shadow. Be sure to try it yourself!

Before you make your own puppets, use the Puppet Studio to try your hand at shadow plays online.

Did You Get It?

  • When did shadow shows first appear?
  • What does translucent mean? Why is it important that your screen be translucent?

Think About It!

  • Think of five materials in your house that you could use to create color or texture on a shadow puppet.
  • What does a puppet’s movements communicate about a particular animal? For example, how would you describe the way the bear moves versus the crane?
  • What are the different ways emotion can be expressed through puppetry?

What’s Your Take?

  • Ancient shadow plays used religion, history, and folk tales as subjects. What kind of stories would you use to inspire your shadow plays?
  • What is most surprising to you about the art of shadow puppetry?

Learn More

Do It Yourself!

Visit this site to learn how to make a Shadow Puppet Screen from a cardboard box. Then check out this Shadow Puppet Website for some great templates to make your own shadow puppets.

Dig Deeper!

Learn more about the history of shadow puppets and the many cultures that use them.

For the Educator

You will need a variety of items to make shadow puppets. Be sure to review the interactive for suggestions and use your own creativity in your choices!

Instructional Strategies

This interactive lends itself to individual or small group use. After exploring the interactive, small groups can create their own puppets and shadow plays to be performed for others. Assessments may be based on use of color and texture in puppets, scenery and light effects, and the telling of the story.



Amy Heathcott

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