Light Show

  • camera (optional)
  • colored cellophane paper or gels
  • food coloring
  • plastic bottles (clear)

Light Show

WGBH/Denise Nelson

On a sunny day, go outdoors and explore light as you play shadow games together. Before you go out, talk about how you can see a shadow when something gets in the way of light. (The shadows are longest in the early morning and late afternoon.)

Once outside, explore how shadows change when you move around.

  • Have toddlers stand with their shadow in front of them. Then have them chase their shadow. Can they catch it? Then have them make their shadow go behind them. Can they run away from their shadow?
  • Do a shadow dance together. Wiggle, jump, or hop around and watch the shadows change. What happens if one toddler dances on another toddler’s shadow?
  • Go on a shadow hunt. Take pictures of shadows in the environment such as plants, buildings, or animals. Talk about how a shadow shows the shape of something but not details such as color, windows, or smiles.
  • Let children invent their own shadow games.

Explore how light changes when it passes through colored materials.

  • Fill clear plastic bottles with water and add a few drops of different food coloring to each one. Line up the bottles in the sun. Let toddlers watch what happens as the light passes through the colored waters.
  • Have them explore putting their hands in front of the bottle of water.
  • Give toddlers colored gels or cellophane to look through as they look at a variety of objects, such as each other, plants, or sand. Suggest they look through two colors at the same time.
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