I Spy Shadows

Child points to her shadow on the ground outside.

Play the “I Spy Shadows” game with your child. How does the shadow appear on the surface?

5–10 minutes


Get Ready

Materials you will need:

  • Cell phone or iPad camera
  • Flashlight or bright LED lamp
  • Positional Words Chart PDF
Materials PDF

Things to do before the activity:

  • Find a safe, sunny, outdoor area with a flat surface where shadows can be seen easily.
  • Look at the Positional Words Chart on your phone or iPad with your child. Act out some of the positions: stand next to your child, have your child sit between two trees, and so on.

A character with a speech bubble and bat with a thought bubble.

Let's see where we can spy a shadow.

What is making the shadow?


Step 1.

Before you go outside, shine a light source—a lamp or flashlight—on an object to make a shadow. Point out that the object is blocking the light and creating a shadow on the surface.

  • How does a shadow appear on the surface?
  • Together, notice what is the same about the object and the shadow it casts. Notice what is different.

Step 2.

Go outside and look for shadows. Point out the light source that creates the shadows outdoors (the sun). Safety alert: When looking for shadows outdoors, remind your child never to look directly at the sun because it can hurt his/her eyes.

  • What other light sources can you name?

Step 3.

Give clues to find a shadow. Include information such as shape, number of parts, or location in your clues. For example: I spy a shadow that is in front of something green that has three wheels. It is between the two trees.

  • Use positional words to describe the shadows, such as next to the truck or under the swing.

Step 4.

Follow the clues. Have your child follow the clues to find the shadow. Identify the object making the shadow. Switch roles and continue the game. Take photos of the shadows and objects making the shadows.

  • Count together to find out how many parts, such as (tails or wheels), are in the shadow. Is that the same as, more than, or fewer than the number of objects making the shadow?


Look at the photos you took outside. Talk about your I Spy shadow exploration.

  • What light source made the shadows outdoors? What did we use to make shadows indoors?
  • How is each shadow made?
  • Describe where each shadow is cast relative to another object. Use the Positional Words Chart together.