How to Make a Shadow Puppet Theatre at Home

DIY Shadow Puppet Theatre cardboard box

This is one of our favourite projects from the Light & Optics box. It’s an ideal family activity while at home or in quarantine: easy to make and inexpensive, it even rescues an old cardboard box from the recycling bin!

It’s not one more toy that your child plays with for one day and never touches again, the shadow theatre will engage his or her interest for a long time and it's never boring. Finally, it’s just perfect for teaching creative thinking and storytelling skills!

Shadow puppet theatre is an old form of entertainment where flat figurines made of paper are held between a source of light and a transparent screen. It has probably been with us since the stone age, when our ancestors loved seating around the fire and listening to stories.

For this DIY shadow puppet theatre you will need:

  • Cardboard box
  • Thin white paper or parchment paper (baking paper)
  • Scissors or paper cutter
  • Light source (we noticed that headlamp works best, but you can also use a flashlight on iPhone or a desk lamp)
  • Tape

For shadow puppets you will need:

  • Cardboard or thick paper
  • Craft sticks or straws
  • Scissors
  • Washi tape

Here are the steps to make a shadow puppet theatre at home:

  1. Place the box so the bottom faces up. Cut a large rectangular opening. Save the cutout cardboard for shadow puppets.
  2. Opening for screen for DIY shadow puppet theatre

  3. Use the thin white paper sheet (or parchment paper) for the screen, sticking it to the inside of the opening with the tape.
  4. Wax paper for screen for DIY shadow puppet theatre

  5. Flip over and attach the cover's corners with tape.
  6. Attach cardboard box corners with tape for DIY shadow puppet theatre

  7. Draw or trace puppets for your story onto the cutout cardboard. Cut them out with scissors. 
  8. Tip: you can also cut out characters from a damaged book or a magazine.

  9. Cut two pieces of washi tape and attach them to the tip of a craft stick or a straw. Then attach the stick (or straw) to the puppet. 
  10. Puppets for DIY shadow theatre

  11. Place the light inside the box and point it to the screen.

Headlamp for your shadow puppet theatre

Now dim the lights, fire up your imagination and treat your family or friends with a theatre show!

Shadow Puppet Theatre at home - quarantine activity for kids

Want to learn more about Light and Shadows and get all materials pre-packed for this and many other eco-friendly projects? Check out our Light & Optics box!