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Shadow Drawing – Light And Shadow Experiment

This is a fun and simple way to teach kids about light and the basics of how light works.

Under sunlight, put a toy on a surface or a piece of paper.

Then watch as the shadow is created on the paper, floor or wall.

Light travels in a straight line (as far as our eyes can tell) until it hits an object.

When an object is placed in the light’s path, the part of the light that reaches the object will be blocked while the rest of the light keeps going. 

The blocked part becomes a shadow on another object (in this case, the paper).

Drawing shadow science activities

Shadow Drawing - Light And Shadow Experiment

Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Drawing with light and shadow is such an easy and yet fun activity for little kids.

It really helps them recognize and understand several important concepts in physics. 

By observing the different (funny) shapes created by sunlight at different time of the day, children may even become more creative!

Warning: Looking at the sun directly can permanently damage your eyes.

Materials

  • several toys
  • paper
  • marker

Tools

  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen
  • adult supervision

Instructions

  1. Choose a time to do this experiment. Do this in early morning or late afternoon.
  2. Put on sunscreen and wear sunglasses. 🙂
  3. Place the toys on the paper.

    3 toy animals with shadow on a piece of paper, marker traces the outline of shadows to show how light travels in a straight line
  4. Using the marker, trace the outline of the shadows on the paper.

    3 traced shadows

Notes

  • Do the shadow stay the same? How do they change with time?
  • Are the shadows larger, the same size or smaller than the toys?
  • When you rotate the toys, what happens to the shadows?

Did you try this project?

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Mini-Experiment

Here is a mini-experiment to prove that light really travels in a straight line.

Try the following with a light source such as a lamp (or other mild artificial lights), NOT with the sun.

Warning: Looking at the sun directly can permanently damage your eyes.

Stand in the shadow of a large object such as a statue trying to look back towards the light source.

You will not see a light source behind it.

But if you move a little so that you can just see the light, you can actually draw a straight line from your eye, past the edge of the statute, and on to the light.

Explaining Mini-Experiment

In this light and shadow experiment, the shadows look different when you move the farm animal toys because the outline edges of the toys change as they move.

If you take your time to do this project, you will find that the shadow also changes slightly with time.

This is because the sun’s position changes across time.

This property of the sun can actually be used to make a clock! Check out this What Is A Sundial experiment.

Books On Light And Shadow

Toy pig, horse and chicken is placed on a paper which captures their shadows. See how light travels in a straight line.

References

PBS Learning Media

Scientists find light doesn’t always travel in straight lines

UCSB ScienceLine

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