Make Outdoor Shadows

Parent and child making shadows while holding hands outside.

Make combined shadows using the sun as a source of light. What happens to a shadow when two body parts touch or overlap each other?

5–10 minutes


Get Ready

Materials you will need:

  • Cell phone or iPad camera

Things to do before the activity:

  • Plan to do the activity on a sunny day.
  • Find a safe, sunny, outdoor area with a flat surface where shadows can be seen easily.

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

I see shadows when the sun comes out.

What happens to shadows when the sun sets?


Step 1.

Go outside. Find a sunny place and make a shadow. Point out that your bodies are blocking the sunlight and creating shadows on the ground. Safety alert: When looking for shadows outdoors, remind your child never to look directly at the sun because it can hurt his/her eyes.

  • Notice where the sunlight hits your body. A shadow is made on the opposite side.
  • How many shadows do you see?

Step 2.

Make a combined shadow. Stand next to your child. Hold hands or put one leg in front of your child’s leg. Count the shadows. Notice that when you hold hands or overlap your legs, you create a different shadow.

  • Use different objects to make shadows. Overlap the objects and describe how the shadows change.

Step 3.

Use different parts of your bodies or look for objects that you can use to make more combined shadows. For example: Stand in front of a tree, spread out your arms, and watch what happens to the shadow.

  • Count objects and the shadows they make. Are there more shadows or more objects?
  • Why do you think there are more (shadows, objects)?
  • Find two objects and make two shadows. Now make one shadow using the two objects.

Step 4.

Take photos of the combined shadows you make or find.

  • Use words like beside, next to, in front of, and behind to describe how objects make the combined shadow. For example, I am holding my (arm) behind the tree.

Step 5.

Take a break. If your child is having trouble focusing on the activity, do a silly shadow dance together. You might be surprised when your child points out a combined shadow while dancing!


Look at the shadow pictures you took while exploring combined shadows.

  • Take turns pointing out what body part or object is blocking the light in each picture.
  • What objects made the shadow? How does the combined shadow look different from the individual objects that made it?
  • Compare the number of shadows we made in this picture before and after we overlapped our body parts.