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Light UP Creativity: Shadow Puppet Theatre

Getting creative at home is a great way to keep yourself and your family entertained for hours. Creativity can also stimulate your mind, help you relax and ultimately - make you feel good.


Shadow Puppet Theatres are the ultimate combination of theatre and light! Cut-out figures, or puppets, are held between a source of light and a screen, creating the illusion of movement. This unique form of storytelling is a long-standing tradition in Southeast Asian countries, but it also became popular in France, Italy, Britain and Germany by the 17th century.

Making your own shadow puppet theatre is surprisingly simple and affordable. With just a few household items, your children can become actors and directors, creating their own world of shadow adventures. It is guaranteed fun for the whole family!

You will need:

  • A Cardboard Box

  • White Tissue Paper (old white sheets that you don't mind cutting also work really well here!)

  • Black Card

  • Paper Fasteners

  • Scissors

  • Sellotape

  • Bamboo Skewers

  • A Light (either a bedside lamp or torch)

Got everything? Let's get this show on the road!

Start by drawing a large square outline on a wide side of your cardboard box.

Next, cut this square out and set it aside. We now have the base of our Shadow Theatre. If you like, you can even decorate your border with pens or paint to make it look like a fancy proscenium arch!

Now, take your white tissue paper, cut it to size, and carefully tape it to the inside of your box's square border, creating a screen. Make sure the tissue paper is quite taut.

Your shadow theatre is ready to go! Now it's time to make your shadow puppets...

To make your shadow puppets, all you need to do is draw or trace your character onto a sheet of black card and carefully cut it out with scissors. You can either draw your character free-hand or you can use a template. Once you've cut out your character, stick it to the top of a bamboo skewer, using sellotape, and it's ready to go!

To make moveable parts for your shadow puppet, carefully cut out the part of the puppet you would like to move separately (in the picture above, we cut out the puppet's arm). Make a small hole in the puppet's main body, near where the separate part was cut out. Make a small hole in the separate part, this will become the joint for your puppet. Using a paper fastener, fasten the separate part to the puppet's main body. Now, take a second bamboo skewer and attach it to the separate part using sellotape. You now have an articulated shadow puppet, which can wave to the audience!

And there you have it! All you need to do now is dim the lights, put a bedside lamp or torch behind your theatre and you are ready to perform! Which story are you going to tell? Our Creative Content Producer, Caroline, created the example above - drawing inspiration from shadow puppetry's East Asian roots. You could also recreate some of your favourite stories, such as Alice in Wonderland, The Three Billy Goats Gruff... even Harry Potter!

We would love to see what you create, so please do share pictures or videos of your shadow puppet theatres on social media with us at #LightUPCreativity


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