Shadow Puppet Theatre

One of the best ways to amuse children is with some sort of play or show, and a Shadow Puppet Theatre is one of the quickest and easiest to be made. An improvised cardboard box can be the theatre, and black card is all that is required for the cast and props. The result is outstandingly effective. When a bright light is placed behind the screen, the shadows are as sharp as can be, and the eerie quality of the silhouettes lends a great deal to the performance.

I know from first-hand experience how enthralling and perfectly magical a shadow puppet performance can be, from the days when I was young and my parents would do them for me! Now I am older I have discovered what fun can be had making the show.

I am sure that the craft below will provide plenty of entertainment for all the family.

You will need:

Cardboard box

Craft knife

Sellotape (scotch)


Black card

Transparent plastic


Diagram 2


1. Take a cardboard box and rule out a square on the base, just smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. (Diagram 1)


2. Cut out the square with a craft knife, and sellotape down any flaps which have come loose, making the screen secure.


Diagram 1

3. Cut open the sides of the box as shown in diagram 2, opening out the side-walls to make the wings of the stage.


4. Stick a piece of A4 paper to the back of the hole in the base, making a screen which is as taught as possible. The stage is now finished, and the play can be made.

Diagram 2

The characters, props and scenes are all made out of black card, which should be very thin and stiff. You can choose to perform any play you want: a nursery rhyme, a fairy story, or something of your own invention. The play suggested here is the Billy Goat’s Gruff as it only has four characters and is nice and short.

You can click on the PDF hyper link to get the figures and scenery, or you can draw them yourself. Each figure needs to have a long piece of card attached to the base (approximately 12cm long), to hold them with as they move across the stage. For the figures who need to move along in the air, the strip can be made out of clear plastic. In this play, the three Billy Goat’s Gruff all have clear plastic strips so they can cross over the bridge without the strip being seen.

The scenery can be stuck to the back of the screen with a little blue-tack.

To perform the play, darken the room and place a bright spotlight or lamp just behind the screen. For you to see what is going, a mirror can be placed in front for rehearsals. You will soon see that the figures have to be pressed very close to the screen to make the shadow sharp, and that turning them round on stage is impossible!

The story can be told as you go along, or you can involve a second person and have them read it for you whilst you act it. A guitar, zither, or other not-too-noisy instrument makes an ideal accompaniment.

Shadow Puppet PDF



When making new characters try them out on scrap paper first. It is best to have all the figures profile, and not to make their legs too spindly.


When performing the play, lay out the props, scenes and characters in the order you are going to use them.


If you are making a fairy character, she can have a string attached to her, rather than a cardboard strip, so that she can fly on and off.

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