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What Shadows Can Do

As featured in our February calendar, try out some of these ways to help kids harness the magic of shadows. We think you’ll agree that for kids, shadows are one of the coolest toys going! Shadow play requires no sharing—everyone gets their own; kids neither object to carting them around nor leave them places; and, as long as the sun shines, kids can play and learn with them in unlimited ways.

Keep these ideas in your “bag of tricks” and add one or more of them to a sunny day out. Or, grab a flashlight at night and have fun in or outdoors! Your kids will develop body, mind and spirit as they move, play and experiment with sunlight and shadows.

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The Guide

1. Get to know your shadows: Before you start, have kids find their shadows, then give time to play around to see how their shadows move and behave. If you are doing it too, they’ll really get into it. Note: shadows are larger and more pronounced at the start or end of the day, so morning or late afternoon are ideal.

2. Start the game: Ask kids, “Can your shadow__?” Or “I wonder if our shadows can__." Then, start trying! Feel free to grab sticks, branches, leaves and other natural props to help make your shadow transform too. Here are some fun things that we’ve seen shadows do:
  • wave 
  • clap 
  • jump
  • dance 
  • march 
  • leap 
  • wiggle 
  • somersault 
  • cartwheel  
  • stand on one foot 
  • get really big or small 
  • get wide or skinny 
  • spell words 
  • do the arm wave 
  • join other shadow(s) to make a shape (circle, heart, square, triangle, etc) or cool designs
  • give a high five or handshake to someone else’s shadow without the two people touching 
  • hide inside someone else’s shadow 
  • do some mindful movement (e.g. lion pose, cobra pose, star pose, mountain pose
  • turn into a creature from nature (lions, tigers, spiders, deer, birds...you name it!) 
  • turn into a character from imagination (from princesses to warriors to medusa, the possibilities are endless) 
  • use sidewalk chalk or nature treasures (e.g. sticks, stones, leaves) to trace shadows striking a pose

Why is this activity great for kids?

Playing around with shadows is great for developing gross motor skills and control over the body. To move and hold your shadow into new shapes also requires a decent amount of focus and self control from young kids. This invitation to see what your shadow can do also opens the door to a whole world of imaginative and physical play using a shadow—the super toy that is always there, as long as the sun is shining.
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