How To Make Hand Shadow Puppets

How to Make Shadow Puppets: Play and Learn with Lights

Learning Objective for Shadow Puppets: Investigate the properties of shadows.

Materials Needed to Make Shadow Puppets

  • Colored paper
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Pencil or craft stick
  • Tape
  • Flashlight

How to Make Shadow Puppets

  1. Cut several numbers or shapes out of the paper. We used 3 inch numbers for math play and learning too.
  2. Allow the child to hole punch dots throughout the numbers. The use of a hole punch will help strengthen fine motor muscles in hands and create a really neat effect when the light is shown on the shadow puppet figures.
  3. Tape the numbers to a pencil or craft stick.
  4. In a dark room, shine the flash light on the numbers. Explore what happens when the shadow puppet moves closer and further from the light source.
  5. Discuss the attributes or properties of shadows.

Teacher Tips:

A Shadow is a silhouette or an outline of a shape.

The shadow puppet blocks the light and creates a silhouette of the shape on the wall.

Shadows do not have a color or show details within the figure.

Shadows outdoors can demonstrate the time of day.

Making the puppets

Cut limbs from double poster board
Cut limbs from double poster board
  1. Cut out the body parts with a wide margin and stick them to the black poster board with either a small piece of double sided tape or a double folded piece of scotch tape.
  2. Cut out all body parts with small sharp scissors. Use the pointed part of the scissors to cut out the eye and to make holes in all indicated places where the pieces will be joined.
  3. Compare the silhouette head with the faceless template head and punch the little hole where the head connects to the body.
  4. Separate the paper from the black poster board parts.
  5. Connect the body’s legs to the torso with a small black brad. Do the same with the upper and lower arms.
  6. Connect the arms, face, and body with one metal brad in the (arm #1–body–head–arm #2).
  7. Turn the head forward and backwards to see if any part below the neck will rise above the shoulders. If so, cut that away with your scissors.
  8. For instructions about holding and moving rods go to Holding and  moving the puppets.


Some of the things youll need for making shadow puppets

Tip 1 On Making Shadow Puppets

Before you begin to create your puppets, why not select a favorite book or write a story to act out? That will give you an idea as to what types of puppets you need, and what you need them to be able to do!

Fox puppet

Janiece Tobey (Author)

Fox Puppet – before the movable mouth was attached with a brad clip.

Janiece Tobey (Author)

Movable wing for Eagle puppet

Janiece Tobey (author)

How to Make Shadow Puppets with Moving Parts

Many of the traditional shadow puppets from China and Indonesia have articulated limbs. If you want to learn how to make shadow puppets with moving parts, you can do it with our free printable template of medieval knights. The trick is to use miniature brads!

Beauty and the Beast: Shadow Puppets

Inspired by the Beauty and the Beast fairy-tale, these printable shadow puppets will let the kids tell their version of the “tale as old as time.

A Pioneer SamplerA Great Living Book

This book is actually the inspiration for our making a shadow puppet theater! In the book, the Robertsons spend a cold winter's evening around the fire watching to Granny cast shadows on the wall as she tells a silly story about hobgoblins.

This is such a wonderful way to learn about the American pioneers. The book centers around the Robertsons, a backwoods family of nine. Engaging stories about their lives teach about the lifestyle of our American forefathers and mothers. Interspersed among the stories are factual pages with beautiful line drawings and activity suggestions. A fascinating book!

Thanks for visiting. I hope that your puppet theater is a grand success!

Things You’ll Need

  • Light-source (lamp, candle, etc)
  • Screen (Baking paper)
  • Cardboard box
  • Wooden sticks or straws
  • Paper (A strong type of paper is even better)
  • Tape
  • Sofa or table where you can hide behind

Remember to come out from behind the stage and take your bow! – The youth are holding their shadow puppets

Puppets, from left to right: Boar, Eagle, Alligator, Bat, Crane.

(Note: There were several others children and puppets in our performance too.)

Shadow Puppet Theater

This is my daughter, soon to be 10 years old, posing with her newly created shadow puppets and puppet theater. This craft was so easy to make! We started with a cereal box, rescued from the recycling pile.

More Fun Activity Ideas for Halloween

Try these Halloween STEM activities for more science fun this October!

These are some of the Halloween STEM activities my kids ask to do over and over.

How to make shadow puppets with paper

First, get the printable shadow puppets templates (they’re free!).

Print them onto cardstock paper and cut them out with scissors. If you cut out the eyes, the shadows come out even better.

Tape the skewers to the back of the puppets. This will make it easier to play with them in the light.

Turn on the light and shine it on a large, blank wall. We used our dining room wall. Turn off other lights for even more drama.

Take turns telling spooky stories as you play with the puppets.

My kids had a blast with these silly little puppets.

Keeping puppets on card stock in a folder

The simplest way to keep puppets safe or present them as a gift is to attach them with velcro on card stock pages, and keeping them together in a presentation folder from your local office supply store. Rods may be stored this way too, by attaching their soft velcro tops to a strip of prickly velcro on a sheet of card stock.

Have fun!