Story Character Puppets

Parent and child making shadows on the wall with their hands.

Create shadow puppet characters from a favorite story. How will you make the puppets’ shadows appear on the surface?

10–20 minutes


Get Ready

Materials you will need:

  • Favorite storybook
  • Shadow surface (such as a white/light-colored sheet)
  • Bright LED lamp or flashlight
  • Sheet of poster board, thin cardboard, or other stiff paper (for the puppets)
  • Decorating materials, such as feathers, cutout shapes, twist ties, and so on
  • Hole punch or sharpened pencil
  • Scissors
  • Sticks or straws (for the puppet handles)
  • Tape or large clips

Things to do before the activity:

  • Set up the shadow surface. Tape or clip a bed sheet over an open doorway or drape it between two chairs. Position the flashlight or lamp to shine on the shadow surface.
  • Place all the puppet materials in your activity area.

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

I'm excited to create shadow puppets!

How can we make a shadow bigger or smaller?


Step 1.

Read a story together. Read the story aloud with your child. Choose one or more favorite characters from the story.

Step 2.

Make the puppets. Draw each character on cardboard or other stiff paper. Include the ears, legs, and other recognizable features. Your puppets don’t have to look exactly like the story characters!

  • Cut out and decorate the puppets. Tape a stick handle on the back of each.
  • Use the hole punch or sharpened pencil to make eyeholes. Do you think the eyeholes will appear in the shadow? Why?

Step 3.

Set up a puppet show. Have your child be the puppeteer. He or she will stand on one side of the sheet and hold the puppet between the light and the shadow surface. As the audience, you will sit on the other side of the sheet. Take turns being the puppeteer and the audience.

  • How will you make the shadows appear on the surface?

Step 4.

Put on the shadow show! Have your child hold the puppets between the light and the surface to make shadows. Retell the story as your child acts out different parts. Or make up a whole new story together! Switch roles.

  • Notice what happens to the shadow when you move a puppet closer to the light. How does the shadow change?
  • Notice how the puppet’s eyeholes appear in the shadow. The paper that was punched out would have blocked the light.
  • How many shadows do you see? How many puppets are making the shadows?


Talk about the puppet shadow shows together.

  • Talk about how your child made a shadow small. How did you change the shadow size?
  • Notice where the light hits the puppet. A shadow is made on the opposite side.
  • How is the puppet the same as the shadow? How is it different?