Shine a light – play ideas for dark evenings

Sophie Ballinger

By: Sophie Ballinger | Date: 3/12/2015

It’s funny how everything seems to change when the clocks go back. The weather takes a turn for the worst, we all start wrapping up and donning winter hats, and there’s just no avoiding the dark evenings. How very gloomy.

For any parents and carers out there with young children it can be a real mixed blessing – on the one hand it’s great as children tend to sleep much better in the dark – phew!, but on the other hand there are fewer opportunities to get outside to play, especially in the evenings, and it can be really tempting to just snuggle up in front of the telly. Add to that, some children can be really quite fearful of what lurks in the dark, so how can you change something scary into something magical and exciting?

At Eureka! we’ve been working away to create our brand new Christmas show for families, and this year we’ve decided to explore some of the wonders of light and shadow in an interactive show called ‘Night Lights’. Set on Christmas Eve, it’s all about a child who is afraid of the dark, who faces their fears when their trusty night light breaks and – with the help of their older brother, some imagination, magic, and shadow play – turns that fear into wonder. We’ve been well and truly dipping into the darkness to come up with some creative, multi-sensory play ideas using lights and shadows. So get your torches at the ready, as here are a few for you to try at home:

  • Shadow puppetry with a twist

    It doesn’t all have to be dogs and snakes (though animals are always good fun). Try working your way through the alphabet making the letters with your hands! What other creative shadows can you create?

  • Torch limbo

    One for fans of cheesy 80s party games: Hold your torch horizontally and use the beam of light as your limbo pole! Take it turns to limbo beneath, dropping the light a little with each turn. If the beam of light touches you, you’re out!

  • Shadow City! (Image: Pinterest)

    Shadow City! (Image: Pinterest)

    Build a shadow city

    Using boxes, tins, even shoes and CD cases, create a city-scape before grabbing your trusty torch to project your Shadow City onto the wall. If using old cereal or shoe boxes – why not cut out windows to make the shadow really interesting!

  • Illuminated objects

    Grab objects around the house that might cast an interesting shadow when you shine a torch through or around them – colanders, cuddly toys, leaves, cutlery. Dim the lights and, with your back to your children, cast the shadow of a part of your object on the wall. Who can be the first to guess what it is?

We’d love to see your shadow creations so please do post them onto the Eureka! Facebook page, and why not join us to watch our very own shadowy show: Night Lights!

This blog originally appeared as a column in the Halifax Courier.

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Eureka! The National Children’s Museum
Discovery Road, Halifax HX1 2NE. Map