April 3, 2020
TLDR: It’s just what it looks like. Stick a toy on paper and kids trace the shadow.
Recommended for 6+ (my 4-yr old got pretty frustrated with it).
Later in the afternoon probably works better for a more slanted shadow.

If you’re like me, you’ve been inundated these last couple of weeks with links and ideas for things to do with your kids. From long emails with rows and rows of links to kid-friendly websites to Instagrammers with lists of “50 THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS” to celebrities drawing and reading stories live to kids… the world is really coming through for parents and kids! Thank you!

But, maybe also like me, you feel a little overwhelmed with the task of parsing through all of the options and paring down the list to what works for you and your family. I haven’t gone through everything. Sometimes I see common themes as I skim through my social media feeds (hello blue tape chalk art!), and sometimes, if it looks simple enough, I’ll click and open the image and check out an idea. That’s what happened with this one. My mother in law sent me an email, and the image spoke for itself: kids can trace shadows!

It looked simple, engaging, and it was outdoors. Sold. So a few days later, I grabbed a basket and walked around the house and collected various items: dolls, plastic animals, an excavator, a fire truck, and our IKEA figurine that you can bend to various shapes. I grabbed a big sheet of paper (a smaller one can also work! Just bring several sheets), some writing utensils, and took the kids outside.

I initially bent it into a layup position, but I guess she likes what she likes. Hi, ballerina.

It was exactly what it looks like: I picked out figurines I thought they could have some success with: a basic truck for my four year old, and a pony for my six year old. We set them on the paper at a good angle to capture a sharp silhouette, and I showed the kids how to trace the shadows. Then the kids traced them. My six year old stuck with the activity for a pretty long time, maybe 30-45 minutes, while my four year old got frustrated with it within the first fifteen minutes.

Check out the details on that elephant!

Some tips:

  1. Wait until later in the afternoon. At first, the sun was more overhead and didn’t create good shadows for tracing. I tried holding the toys up to make a better shadow on the paper, but it only ended up frustrating my kids more because I had a hard time keeping my hands steady.
  2. Figures with spindly legs (like animals or the IKEA figurine) seemed to work better than things with flatter bases (like excavators or rubber ducks).
  3. Maybe have your older kid trace and younger kid color in.
  4. Have your kid sit so the shadow is between them and the animal. I tried to convince my daughter to sit on the other side of the paper, so her own shadow wouldn’t get in the way (like it is in that last picture hah) but I guess she wanted to learn the hard way.

Afterwards, I cut out their favorite tracings and taped it onto construction paper for a background and hung it up. They’re pretty pleased with it. So was I. And here’s another quick and simple idea to stash in your back pocket!

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