Have you ever noticed that your shadow changes size? Sometimes it’s long and stretched out. At other times, it’s short or hardly there at all. What causes this?


Fun Facts

  • The sun makes long shadows in the morning and late afternoon when it’s sitting low in the sky. At noon, when it’s directly above you, your shadow is short – or nonexistent. Try recreating this with a lamp or flashlight. Hold the lamp so it sits at the same level as an object. What does the object’s shadow look like? Now move the lamp over the object. How does the shadow change?
  • A shadow happens when an object blocks the path of light. The object must be translucent or opaque. A clear, transparent object won’t make a shadow, but the light will pass through it.
  • Opaque objects make darker shadows; translucent objects make lighter shadows.
  • The closer an object is to the light source, the larger the shadow will be. The farther away the object is from the light source, the smaller it will be.
  • Try experimenting with light and shadow. Shine a light on translucent objects. The shadow created will be light or might even be colored. Try tracing a shadow onto paper. For example, you can capture a tree’s shadow on the side of a building by taping a piece of paper to the building and tracing the shadow. Use your hands to make shadows on a wall or learn how to make shadow puppets.


Learn More

Watch a video about shadows.


Here’s a famous poem about shadows by Robert Louis Stevenson

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.


The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.


He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;

I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!


One morning, very early, before the sun was up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;

But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.