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Maker Monday: Shoebox Shadow Puppets

Sally Quinn
May20/ 2019

This fun Maker Monday STEAM activity — Shoebox Shadow Puppets — can result in hours of fun. Once kids create their shoebox theater, they can add new stories and characters.

We found everything we needed in the kitchen and cardboard recycling bin. Use lightweight, easy-to-cut cardboard for the shadow figures. An empty cereal box is perfect. We used an empty soft drink carton.

Begin by having kids imagine a story they want to tell and identify the characters and scenery. Once they get started, it’s always entertaining to watch their ideas develop!



Lightweight cardboard



Standard printer paper

Pencils or markers

Bamboo skewers

Straight-edge knife (for grownups only)

Begin with the shoebox — and a grownup with a straight-edge knife. Cut along one of the bottom edges, then up about 2 inches, leaving an inch or so on each end. This space is where you will slide your puppets. The closer the puppets are to the screen, the better their shadows will be. This space keeps the puppets from moving too far back.

Turn the shoebox bottom side up. Cut a rectangle, leaving an inch or two all around. Cut the paper to fit in the shoebox bottom and tape in place. This is the shadow theater’s screen.

Now kids can begin drawing and cutting out shadow characters and scenery. Remind kids that all the audience will see is a shadow, so there’s no worry about errant lines. If a foot is cut off accidentally, for example, just tape it back in place! As your story progresses, clothing or props can be added as needed. Perhaps your Cinderella gets a crown at the end.

Tape the characters and props onto the bamboo skewers.


We ended up with quite a collection, with two stories in the works. One was an underwater adventure and the other involved a princess.

Place the theater on a table with the opening slightly off the edge of the surface so there’s room to insert the shadow pieces. Set up a desk lamp behind the shoebox, shining into the box. Dim the lights, draw the curtains and — it’s showtime!

For more Maker Monday projects and other fun stuff for kids, visit the Kidsburgh Activities page.

Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is an award-winning writer and editor who has been covering her favorite city for more than 30 years. She appreciates all that Pittsburgh offers families and has a blast guiding her 10 grandkids to new discoveries. Sally welcomes your comments and story ideas for Kidsburgh.

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