Make shadow creatures

 Shadow creatures in the shape of a dog


Use just your hands and a lamp or torch to conjure creatures from thin air!

 You will need:

  • A torch or lamp
  • A light-coloured wall or large sheet of paper
  • Your hands!

1. Set up your lamp in front of a plain wall (or large sheet of paper) so that it projects a good-sized area of bright light.

2. Put one of your hands between the lamp and the wall. What do you see?

Shadow creature against a white background

3. Start by getting a feel for the types of shadows you can create. Adjust the position of your hands to find the location that gives the clearest shadow on the wall. Why not explore these questions?

  • What happens when you move your hands towards the lamp? Or towards the wall?
  • What happens if you move the lamp further away? Or closer to the wall?
  • Is there a connection between the size of the shadow and the sharpness?

4. Next, have a go at creating some creatures by positioning your hands and fingers to create features. Small adjustments to your fingers can have a big impact on the shadow you create – you’ll need to persevere! 

In need of some inspiration?

You may like to try positioning your hands like this:

Hands in shape of a spider against a yellow background


Hands in shape of a crocodile against a yellow background


Hands in the shape of a dog against a yellow background


Hands in shape of a bunny against a yellow background


Hands in the shape of a long-necked bird against a yellow background


Can you identify the creatures we were aiming for? (see below for answers!)


The science of shadows

A shadow is created when light is blocked by an object. The closer an object is to the light source, the bigger the shadow is because its blocking a larger area of light.

The blur you see around a larger shadow is called the penumbra and is caused when only part of the light is blocked at the edges of hands. The darker, central shadow is called the umbra.

If the light source is being completely blocked by your hands (e.g. when you create a small shadow) a penumbra doesn’t form.


Answers: Spider, Crocodile, Dog, Rabbit and long-necked bird!