Storytelling with Animal Shadows


These dark evenings have inspired storytelling using shadows!  My animal shadow puppeteering skills are rather limited, and shamefully only include a dog and spider. The spider is inspired mostly because of the way it moves.


Greysen doesn’t mind, and listens intently to the adventures of spider and dog, but I realized she has not really tried to take an active part in the storytelling, which is not like her – or any toddler, for that matter. I wondered, is trying to make animal shadow puppets intimidating?


During an inspiring conversation with a friend (Thanks Laura D!), I decided to make some animal silhouettes that we could use as storytelling prompts.


I needed more evidence that I was on the right track. In the days following, we were at the park when Greysen looked down at her shadow while swinging her arms in the air and said, “Octopus.”


Octopus Shadow


The octopus makers!



Based on her love of all things ocean-related, Greysen and Moon’s artistic Tia Stephanie drew silhouettes of several sea creatures. The cast includes: Dolphin, Seahorse, Octopus, Hammerhead Shark, and at Greysen’s request, Sea Dragon.


As usual, we made due with what we had on hand – kebab skewers with the sharp ends cut off, taped to the the cardboard cutouts. I would have used popsicle sticks if I had them, but these worked just fine.


Using a flashlight as the source, I told a short story starring our newest character – Dolphin!

Greysen was eager for a turn. She proudly announced Dolphin’s usefulness as a flyswatter as she swatted the wall.  I watched happily and waited. I did not correct or encourage her to tell a story, and I respected her right to discover and try her own ideas.

After a few swats, she twirled the dolphin in a circle. She brought it close to the light source, then far away. Then, a shift – she focused on the shadow and had the dolphin peck at the wall. “Dolphin eating.”  Watching the wall she made adjustments and manipulated the dolphin silhouette to peck at the floor. “Dolphin eating.”



Mike added a piece of blue cellophane over the flashlight for an under water aura.


After playing with the dolphin for a bit more, she laid on her back and made a butterfly with her hands! Did the animal silhouette give her the confidence to try one with her own hands?


Soon, characters Seahorse and Hammerhead Shark joined our tale.




They sang, “Happy birthday!”



Good night, new friends!


 Do you ever tell goodnight stories in the dark?


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