Light & Shadow 

 “Play helps our light shine by writing the story of our life.” -Bridger, age 10

As the days get shorter in late fall through the early winter season, and the clouds ebb and flow, oftentimes it is easy to tune out nature's dramatic performance taking place outside. The sky above may serve as a reminder of a simple and mysterious power of which children are keenly aware.

Children aren’t the only ones mesmerized by this natural phenomenon. Countless authors and artists have filled the world’s libraries and galleries in pursuit of it too. So, what is this thing?

The magical interplay of light and shadow.

When light and shadow come into focus, it can help reveal old things in new ways. It can generate stories and worlds that we didn’t realize were even possible.

Light and shadow can be a source of ever-changing wonder for children and adults alike, especially when one takes the time to slow down and pay attention. As young Bridger reminds us, play can help our light shine throughout the entire story of our life.

The winter season gives the perfect setting to invite you to explore light and shadow with your child at home. You might start with these questions:

  • What stories live inside light and shadow?
  • What surprises will we find when we look with fresh eyes?
  • What melodies will we uncover in the dance between shadow and light?

@Home Experience


With your child’s help, choose a spot that isn’t too bright and has a blank light colored wall. Hanging up a bedsheet also works well.

Ask your child to collect various objects that might be interesting to project light through. The kitchen can yield some exciting results such as sieves, pasta strainers, corkscrews, or funnels. Other possibilities could include mirrors, leaves, pinecones, small branches, doilies, tissue paper, animal figures, or CD’s. There are no wrong objects to play with, so be open to surprise!

While your child is collecting objects, pull together as many different light sources you can find, such as flashlights, clamp lights, fairy lights, or black lights. Most smartphones have strong enough flashlights to work wonders too!  

Have your child set up their objects in front of the wall or bedsheet at various heights and distances. 

Be sure to turn off other lights and close any curtains to keep the space relatively dark. 

Then, let your child explore the shadows of each object with the different light sources in the room. 

Curious Questions for Caregivers

While your child investigates, ask these questions to extend the idea of light and shadow further. This is also a great opportunity for caregivers to practice listening with intention. 

  • What does it look like?
  • What has it turned into?
  • What else could it turn into?
  • What will happen next?


Inspire more moments for light and shadow play with these amazing reads. 

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd 

In this story about words, a boy explores the woods after dark with a flashlight.

The Game of Light by Herve Tullet

An inventive and interactive game of storytelling with shadows from the author of Press Here.

Shadow by Suzy Lee

A little girl uses her imagination and a light bulb to go on an adventure in a dark attic.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

A poetic story that captures the magic behind the winter solstice, the yearning for traditions that connect us with generations that have gone before and the hope for peace that we carry into the future.

Windows by Julia Denos

Walking his dog at dusk, one boy catches glimpses of the lives around him in this lovely ode to autumn evenings, exploring your neighborhood, and coming home.