Shadow Puppets: How To Make Easy Hand Shadow Puppets For Kids

8 YouTube Tutorials For Making Shadow Puppets With Your Kids

February 25, 2021 Updated June 16, 2021

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Are you looking for screen-free activities for your kids? We’ve got you covered — and it might not be what you’re thinking either. Nope. This particular activity isn’t your typical screen-free choice, but it’s a fun one nonetheless. Today we’re talking about showing your kiddos how to make shadow puppets. This childhood classic is underrated and not covered very widely in the blogosphere, but we’re hoping to help it make a comeback. Shadow puppets aren’t just an entertaining option when the power goes out; they also make a great rainy spring day activity.

Below, you’ll find some of our favorite YouTube tutorials for making shadow puppets with your little ones. Check ‘em out and keep this handy idea up your sleeve for the next time a storm knocks the power out — or your kids need a little screen-free wind-down time before bed. Hey, maybe you just need a way to keep them busy for a bit while making dinner. Whatever the reason, this activity definitely deserves a place in your parenting toolkit.

Shadow Puppets Basics

One of the best parts about shadow puppets? All you really need are your hands, a light source, and a blank expanse of wall. You can start by putting together your setup and practicing with one hand between the light and wall so you can see the silhouette of your hand. Next, play around with changing the way you hold your hand and the arrangement of your fingers. Pay attention to how tiny tweaks can make your hands look like different animals and shapes.

YouTube Tutorials for Making Shadow Puppets

1. Shadow Puppet Song | Cocomelon

If you have little ones, this is the perfect way to introduce them to shadow art. This charming song by Cocomelon offers a little bit of a how-to mixed in with a super sweet beat. Tiny tots are guaranteed to love it!

2. How to Make Animal Shadow Puppets With Your Hands | TheDadLab

TheDadLab has put together a fun tutorial for parents to show kids. This video is just three minutes and packed full of “hands-on” (#YesPunIntended) info.

3. Making Shadow Puppets — Stem Activity | Science Buddies

This video from Science Buddies has taken this simple concept and turned it into a full-out science activity for kids. With a little creativity and a few art supplies, you can make a whole afternoon of STEM learning with shadow puppets.

4. How to Make Shadow Puppets | Sesame Studios

From the makers of Sesame Street comes a fun how-to video on this imaginative activity for kids. With upbeat music and adorable characters, your kids will have a blast learning from Sesame Studios.

5. How to Make Shadow Puppets | PBS Parents

Another big name in children’s television programming, PBS Parents has a quick two-minute video teaching kids all about shadow puppets. As a bonus for parents, a kid hosts! That definitely makes it more entertaining for your little ones to watch.

6. How to Make Your Own Shadow Puppet Theatre | Kidspot

Need a fun twist on the traditional shadow puppets? Make a theatre to display your puppets! Here’s a super simple how-to using just a few regular household supplies like a cardboard box, scissors, tape, and a table lamp. Then you can put on shadow puppet shows for the whole family!

7. Science Discovery: Fun with Shadows | Lakeshore Learning

Lakeshore Learning is a popular name in both teaching and homeschooling circles. They’re known for their high-quality educational materials. Here, they’ve put together a fantastic tutorial for all kinds of shadow play. This is a great way to extend your knowledge once you’ve mastered the basics.

8. What is a Shadow? Art for Kids | The Touring Teacher

Another great way to extend your kid’s shadow learning, The Touring Teacher has put together an engaging video explaining what shadows are and how they’re formed. This seven-minute guide is perfect for helping kids understand the science behind shadow puppets.

What are Chinese shadow puppets made of?

If you want to take your shadow fun to the next level, give Chinese shadow puppetry a try. You’ll need:

  • A thin card 
  • Scissors 
  • Markers
  • A cardboard box
  • Glue or tape 
  • A sheet of white tissue paper 
  • Several sticks (like lollipop sticks)
  • Flashlight
  1. Have your kids draw or trace a figure of their choice onto the thin sheet of card paper.
  2. Color in the image and then cut it out. 
  3. Glue the cutout to a stick using tape or glue.
  4. Cut a large hole in the front of the cardboard box. Tape the white tissue paper behind the hole.
  5. Put the flashlight behind the paper and let the show begin.

What is the shadow puppet of Indonesia?

Wayang is Javanese for shadow. It has a similar setup to Chinese shadow puppet art. It was developed in the 10th century and buffalo hide is usually used to craft the puppets. The leather figurines are placed on bamboo sticks, which are then moved behind a white cloth. It is an important part of Indonesian culture because Wayang is used to pass down stories, myths, and religious lessons.
In Indonesia, the puppeteer is called the dalang. They are the puppet master, and usually on bended knees, they breathe life into the play. They are responsible for the music and the voices of each character. Dalangs are usually incredible storytellers and tend to create lessons rooted in morality, philosophy, or political commentary. They are incredibly talented and usually uses one hand to control multiple characters.

Shadow Puppet Story Ideas

After you’ve created a variety of shadow puppets, you can tell almost any story you like. You can choose from the list below, or you and your little one can freestyle and create a bedtime story together.

  • “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”
  • “The Three Little Pigs”
  • “Little Red Riding Hood”
  • “The Princess and the Pea”
  • “Alice in Wonderland”

Feel free to recreate Disney movies with your own bedtime twist like:

  • Moana
  • The Princess and the Frog
  • Tangled
  • The Jungle Book
  • Ratatouille