Cast a Different Light on Learning

You don’t have to be a scientist to nurture your child’s curiosity and observational skills. Encouraging and sharing in their discoveries is a great way to create a life-long love of scientific learning. Children of all ages can engage with the principles of scientific reasoning through fun topics like light and shadow.

Use the world around you to expand young children’s understanding of how light and shadow change the way we see things ⎯ literally! This can be as simple as taking a walk outside at different times of day to observe how light changes over time, or talking about how a rainy day can lead to a rainbow. At bedtime, make hand shadows on the wall with a flashlight and see what animals you and your child can create. As their understanding of light and shadow develops, kids will start to engage with deeper concepts, like how light can be used to measure distance, the art in interactive LED technology, or how the scientific phenomena of reflection and refraction work.

No matter where your child is on their journey of exploration, enjoy the crafts, activities and engaging videos below! And keep the fun going with our Learn Along Bingo packets, full of printable activities and everyday learning ideas for children grades Pre-K to 2.

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Explore Light & Shadow

Shadow Smile! | Sid the Science Kid

Grades PreK-K
This episode of Sid the Science Kid teaches children all about shadows. Sid and his friends learn how to create shadows by blocking sources of light. After the video, start your own scientific investigation with the accompanying Shadow Smile Activity.

Learn a Lot About Science: Simple Activities for Kids

Grades PreK-3
Children don’t need fancy lab equipment to explore science ⎯ they just need the curiosity of The Cat and his friends… and perhaps a little guidance from a trusted adult. Here are a few everyday science activities that can help your kids learn “a lot about that.”

Stargazing and Other Astronomy Activities

Grades PreK-5
Space is a fascinating and sometimes confusing topic for kids. Ready Jet Go helps take the complexity of space and explain it in language kids can understand. Encourage your child’s curiosity with a few simple ways to learn about the wonders of astronomy together.

The Pool | Media Arts Toolkit

Grades K-12
The Pool is an interactive light sculpture that creates magic in public spaces by bringing together art, technology, and participation. Watch this video from KET about how the interactive artwork invites people to walk, run, jump, and dance on its hundreds of circular pads to cause ripples of changing light.

Plants and Shadows

Grades 6-12
Clouds and shadows mean plants live in a constantly changing world of light. Researchers identify how plants detect shadows and maximize efficiency for capturing sunlight for photosynthesis.

Light | Crash Course Astronomy

Grades 9-12
In order to understand how we study the universe, we need to talk a little bit about light. Light is a form of energy. Its wavelength tells us its energy and color. Spectroscopy allows us to analyze those colors and determine an object’s temperature, density, spin, motion, and chemical composition.

Experiments, Crafts & More

Make Sun Prints

Grades PreK-1
When sunlight interacts with our bodies, it warms us. When sunlight interacts with light-sensitive paper, it changes the color of the exposed paper and leaves a silhouette (like a shadow) of any object placed on top of the paper. In this activity, observe the sun’s energy while also experiencing nature and making art!

Dinosaur and Pterosaur Hand Shadows

Grades PreK-1
Learn how to create four different Dinosaur Train hand shadows with your child.

Shadow Shapes Game | PEEP and the Big Wide World

Grades K-2
In this interactive game from PEEP and the Big Wide World, children move an object in front of a flashlight and observe how its shadow changes. As children slide the object closer to and farther away from the light until its shadow matches the size of the object’s outline on the wall, they discover that when an object is moved closer to the light source, it blocks more light and its shadow becomes larger.

Observe Shadows With a Solar System Mobile

Grades K-3
In “Ready, Jet, Go!,” Mindy observes the sun and shadows. She notices that the sun seems to change positions and shadows move throughout the day. Make this easy solar system mobile with your child and observe how shadows move throughout the day!

Create a Silhouette Artwork

Grades 1-8
A silhouette is an outline or sharp shadow of an object, person, animal, or scene and is usually represented as a solid shape of a single color. Silhouettes have been used in all types of art and throughout different periods of history, from Victorian cameo prints to contemporary painting. Trace a shadow to create a silhouette of your own, in this activity from Zoom.

SciGirls | Locker Lights

Grades 3-8
Circuits are all around you. They’re in children’s toys, in lamps, in flashlights. Many of these circuits include a switch that lets us control when electricity flows through it. With a few simple materials, you can make a switch and a circuit to display anywhere! What kind of LED (light emitting diodes) creation will you design?

Explore Primary Colors of Light

Grades 6-8
Observe demonstrations with the primary colors of light and learn how light interacts with pigments. This interactive includes a simulation and videos adapted from Shedding Light on Science. Use this resource to develop and use models of light to explain how to make different colors with light and pigment.

Learn Along Bingo

With Learn Along Bingo, children can view, explore, and play as they learn alongside their PBS Kids friends on the PBS Kids 24/7 channel. We hope your family will use it to inspire learning each and every day.

This time, we’re investigating how light and shadows helps us to learn that some objects block light and create dark shapes on the surfaces behind them.

Grades PreK-K

Play & Learn: In this packet, there are printable activities and everyday learning ideas for you and your child to choose from. As you complete each square, mark it off to celebrate the learning!

Grades 1-2

Play & Learn: In this packet, there are printable activities and everyday learning ideas for you and your child to choose from. As you complete each square, mark it off to celebrate the learning!

For even more games and educational resources for young learners, go to the Playing With Light and Shadows Collection on PBS Kids for Parents.