Arboretum News

Kids Activity: Shadow Puppets

Snuggle up and tell stories with shadow puppets.

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Photos by Reba Luiken.

By Reba Luiken, Arboretum coordinator of informal interpretation

As cooler weather settles in and the sun sets earlier and earlier in the evening, it seems like the perfect time to get cozy with indoor play. But that doesn’t mean you can’t continue nature play! 

It’s important to get outside in all weather (with the right clothes), but the fall sun is also perfect for some indoor nature play—with shadows. Take advantage of the early sunset to do some storytelling with shadow puppets. Read on for some story suggestions and then create your own.

Shadow puppet patterns (or make your own)
– Cardstock
– Scissors and/or exacto knife
– Sticks (or skewers or chopsticks)
– Tape or hot glue


1. Collect all of your supplies. I recommend a hunt outside to find suitable sticks for your puppets, but you might also have some skewers or chopsticks in your kitchen that would work.

2. Print the shadow puppet patterns on cardstock or draw your own.

3. Using scissors or an exacto knife, carefully cut out the shadow puppet outlines. (This is a good job for older kids and adults.)

4. Attach the outlines to sticks using tape or hot glue.

5. Find a blank wall with direct, late-afternoon sunlight (or substitute an artificial light).

6. Practice storytelling! The puppet patterns have just the right characters to tell the Sioux stories of the Rabbit and the Elk or Iktome (the spider), Coyote, and The Rock.

7. Get creative as you tell your own stories and make your own puppets.

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