Day 44: Why Children Need to Play With Shadows


Thailand is famous for its shadow puppets known as “Nang Yai” or “Nang Talung.”

Children are curious.  When left in a room with just a spot of light, you will quickly find them using fingers and toes to create shadows.  This kind of play is not only typical of children but highly characteristic of the kind of child’s play that develops creativity.

Parents can model the creative process for their children. My father was a master at shadow stories.  He would create an angry dog and an old man.  He had a series of funny characters and stories.  When parents model the creative process, children are turned on to a magical world they can create themselves.

Keeping creativity alive in our children is important for our own future. According to a Newsweek article last July, we are in a creativity crisis as children scored lower for the first time in the category of creativity.  Creativity is essential for leaders and for entrepreneurs.  Shadow play is one way to allow children to create something from basically nothing.

More than one brain enhances the creative process. When children create together, a synergy forms where the combined brains create more than the individual brains could.  Shadow plays can allow children to form characters that react with one another in a creative form, like improvisation in acting.

Laughter is good medicine. If kids aren’t fighting for light space, we see smiles and laughter, which enhance overall health in us all.  According to, laughter increases endorphins and leads to overall health benefits.

We tend to forget about playing with shadows unless there is nothing else to do.  When the electricity goes off, we have a perfect excuse.  Let’s not wait for that occasion.  Why not create a shadow play event at your next party or “get together.”  If the light is there, people will want to create the visuals.  Just give it a try, and let your creative juices flow.  Our adult brains can learn too.  As a part of today’s creative activity, get started yourself.  Light some candles and practice with your characters.  You never know how it will lead you to the next great idea.  Please share with us your favorite shadow character.

“To contemplate is to look at shadows.”  Victor Hugo


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