How to do shadow drawing for kids: Art outside!

Shadow drawing for kids is a super fun activity for kids of all ages! It’s a fun and simple art activity that teaches them about shadows. All you need is the sun, some paper (or the driveway!), something to draw, and something to draw with.

Here is how to do shadow drawing with kids!

  1. Put a piece of paper down on a flat surface outside (like the sidewalk)
  2. Have your child place their toys or sculptures around the paper to create shadows
  3. Using a pencil, get them to trace their shadow shapes
  4. Encourage them to be creative! (There are some prompts below)

There you have it! A super easy art project with shadow tracings! Simple activities like this are my go-to when I want to take learning outdoors.

Shadow drawing for kids

What does creating shadow art teach children?

Shadow drawing is a great activity for kids of all ages. It’s simple, fun, and a great way to get creative with shadows. Plus, it’s a great way to learn about shadow shapes and how they change depending on the time of day or the position of the sun. This activity is great for creative kids that love art!

Lifelong Learning Centres also says that drawing activities for little ones enhance creativity and imagination, and develop fine motor skills. Additionally, drawing time supports emotional release and improves hand-eye coordination. That’s several important concepts for learning packed into one short activity!

Tracing the shadow of a toy car

Detailed instructions: Shadow drawing for kids

Here are the steps for shadow drawing with your kids. If you want to watch a video, you could check out the Always Making Art video here!

1. Time of day

Shadow drawing works best in the morning or the late afternoon. In the middle of the day, the sun is directly overhead. This means the light’s path will fall directly on your object, creating little or no shadow at all!

All you need to do is find a sunny spot in your yard and a flat surface to draw on. If your kids want to draw in the grass, they will just need a flat surface to put beneath their paper, like a book or piece of cardboard.

2. Choose: Do you want to draw on paper or on the sidewalk?

For paper: If you have toddlers, they will likely be more interested in the shadows and in scribbling near/around the shapes. This is still a great activity for them as it inspires artistic creativity! For older kids, though, I would encourage using a pencil to outline the shadow shape. Then, just like they would with a painting or pen drawing, they can add interesting details and color before erasing the original pencil marks.

For the sidewalk: All you need is sidewalk chalk! They could trace a scooter, like in the video above, or any other fun outdoor toys.

3. Get creative!

Kids’ art activities are one of my favorite ways to inspire creative learning. The best part about art (in my opinion), is that there are no rules! Encourage your kiddos to play with light and shadow. Can they make the shadows larger? Are the shadows the same size as the object?

Asking fun prompting questions gives them fun ideas to explore as they create their own unique designs. And, they don’t need to use already made objects! This tracing activity can be a craft activity too – Challenge your little ones to build a play-doh or lego shape, for example, and to transform it into a shadow drawing.

After tracing, they can create cool designs by coloring in the shapes they’ve traced, too! Encourage them to fill in the empty space with color and to create unique and exciting designs.

4. Use nature

This activity already draws inspiration from the natural world because it’s rooted in exploring the way light travels. But, you could integrate nature in many different ways!

For example: What happens if you put your paper under a tree or large flower? Can you re-create the plant on your page?

The Peabody Essex Museum has a fun video that emphasizes using the natural world as inspiration for this activity.

Shadow drawing with kids toys

Ideas for shadow drawing

Here are some prompt questions to build on the learning with shadow drawings:

  • What happens if you draw the exact same picture at different times of the day? How does your shadow change as the sun moves?
  • What happens if you move your object around the page?
  • Can you do this activity inside?
  • Can you create this activity at night?
  • Do you need to use objects? What about using your body or your hand? (You may need a partner if you want to trace a full-body pose!)
  • Experiment with different shapes, sizes, and locations on the page
  • Can you draw the same design from different angles?
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Shadow drawing is a great activity for kids because it helps them develop their fine motor skills. It also allows them to be creative and have fun while they are learning.

With fun activity, they get to experiment with the way a light source looks on a page as the light travels. Plus, it’s a neat way to create art outside on a sunny day (or, inside near a window)!

Simple tracing activities like this are great ways for kids to experiment with art. In this activity, they will learn to trace an object, experiment with light and shadow, and get to enhance their creativity as they explore their own artistic ideas. Plus, the whole family can enjoy the shadow art they created once it’s hung up on display!

Have you created shadow art? We would love to see it!

Elke Crosson
Elke Crosson

Elke Crosson has her BA in International Relations from UBC (Okanagan) and her Master of Teaching from the University of Toronto. She is an elementary educator with a passion for outdoor learning.

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