Shadows: Child-led lessons in light

When V was an infant, one of her favourite games was to try to catch a ray of sunlight or shadows through an open window. This was a great exercise for her to manipulate her own hands and legs. Once she started walking, she started noticing the dark figure that follows her around, her shadow.

“What exactly is a shadow, amma?”

We noticed that the shadow cast is always the same shape as the object. But not always, the same size. Her shadow would always look like her. Mine would always look like me. It would do whatever we did too.

Shadow Matching

We did a series of shadow match activities. While going out for walks, we tried to figure out which shadow belonged to exactly which tree and leaf. It was wonderful watching the shadows dance in tune to the trees. We also did a lot of matching activities using DIY flash cards.This develops visual discrimination and is an important pre-requisite to both, math and reading.

Shadow puppetry

We have visited a few puppet shows in the city and needless to say, V was fascinated. We have, since, tried recreating the same in our home. All one needs are cutouts on black cardstock, straws or popsicle sticks, a light source and a favourite story. Room on the Broom happens to be V’s favourite shadow story to narrate and she does a mean job of it.
It is also, a great opportunity for children to manipulate the materials to see principles of light and shadows for themselves.
I also recommend this series of shadow books for toddlers.

Shadow- STEM activity

If you know me, you know my love for STEM. We try to incorporate these into our everyday concepts. I presented V with a challenge to build a tower with her megablocks. The catch was that it should touch the cloud. We had so much fun manipulating the torch light as well as the blocks. Amazing that the size of the shadow changed with the distance! We do not know the physics of the why yet. No hurry, either.What she did understand, was the importance of a light for a shadow.

Size and orientation

Recently, she has been noticing the change of size of her shadow during different times of the day. We kept her Brachiosaurus on a white sheet of paper on our terrace and have been observing the shadow it casts, every few minutes. This is actually not very productive unless the changes are recorder or the shadows traced. But since she can’t do either now, we just observe and realise that it changes in size and direction.

Somewhere, she connected the light from the previous activity to day and night, and asked me if the Earth has a shadow. Phew! I have a feeling we are going to be talking about eclipses soon enough.
Even a tiny guy can cast a huge shadow once he finds his place under the sun. Similarly, even tiny bits of learning, once imbibed beautifully, can cause wonderful results.

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