I wanted to teach my son about shadows and the impact of the sun on shadows, so we went outside one bright sunny morning and I traced his feet and his shadow. I then wrote the time inside the outline of his shadow. We came back outside a couple of hours later. My son stood perfectly still in the outline of his feet, and I traced his shadow again and wrote the time. We did this again a third time a bit later (9:30 am, 11:00 am and 1:00 pm). We could have kept going until sunset, but this seemed to be enough for my son to get the point I was trying to make as he observed that (1) his shadow moved in the same direction every time we did the outline and (2) that his shadow had shrunk every time as well.
Kid-friendly discussion points:
- The sun makes light when it can go through things. Since the light of the sun cannot go through your body, you get a shadow in front of you when the sun is behind you.
- The sun did not move. It’s the earth spinning that causes the sun to be shining on a different spot on the earth, which is why your shadow keeps moving directions. Since the earth spins in the same direction all the time, the shadow always moves in the same direction as well.
- The earth does a full rotation every day, so if you were to restart the experiment and stand in the exact same spot at the same time the next day, your shadow would look just like it did today because the sun is shining on the same surface area of the earth again.
Want to have more fun with shadows? Here are a few online activities that you and your child might enjoy:
- An online game to create shadows by combining different shapes (Sid the Science Kid)
- An online demonstration of how the size of shadows changes when the light source moves closer and further away from the object (you have to use your mouse to move the light source back and forth)
- If you don’t have time to do the shadow chalk outlines, or if you want to reinforce the observations that you have already made outside, here’s a simple animation that shows how the shadow of a stick changes on a per hour basis
- Here’s a video that teaches how to make a dog, swan and bunny shadow puppet on the wall.
What other activities would you recommend trying to reinforce the notion of shadows?
DISCLAIMER: I am not a scientist. I am not a teacher. I am a resourceful Mom with a science background who is passionate about teaching sciences to her kids. Although this blog does its best to use scientifically accurate terms and concepts, the main focus is to initiate a curiosity and an interest about sciences in children. Therefore, concepts and terms may be greatly simplified and/or only discussed in part.