Early years and childcare activities

View our latest childcare activity guide below, written by our early years experts.

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Coronavirus disclaimer - Legislation and policy guidance change regularly. It is the responsibility of the setting to review the latest COVID-19 guidance from the Government when undertaking these top tips.

Shadow drawing

Encourage children to measure shadows and to explore the difference between shadow and light in this activity.

Child looking at shadow

Learning aims

  • Understanding the difference between shadow and light
  • Mark-making with precision
  • Measuring shadows
  • Matching shadows to items.


  • Wooden blocks
  • Small world animals
  • Light blocks
  • CDs on string
  • Chalk 
  • Tape measures / rulers 
  • Clipboard
  • Clock.

Activity outline

  • Take the children outside on a sunny day
    • Ensure all sun care procedures have been followed
  • Look around for shadows already in the outdoor area
    • Concrete or tarmac are the best surfaces for this
  • Talk about what is making the shadows and how they move during the day
  • Make your own shadows using blocks and small world animals 
  • Draw around the shadows and then move the items
  • Can the other children work out which item goes where?
    • This is a simple matching activity which will help with children’s mathematical skills
    • Ask the children how they knew which block went where
  • Revisit the activity later in the day and place the items back in the chalk marks, ask the children what has happened
    • The earth has moved since earlier so the shadow will have moved too.

Extending the activity

  • To challenge the children further, ask them to measure the shadows on the ground once they have drawn them
  • Measure the block that made the shadow
  • Log both down on a clipboard
    • What do they notice? 
  • Repeat this activity at different times of the day
    • What happens at midday? 
  • This is a good activity to see the passing of time and can be extended by creating a sundial which operates in the same manner
  • This activity incorporates time, measurement as well as understanding the movement of the earth around the sun.

Younger children

  • For younger children use CDs and light blocks to see colours reflected on the ground from the objects
  • Dangle the CDs from trees so they can spin in the breeze and make different colours
  • Talk to the children about the colours you can see
  • Extend the activity by blowing bubbles and looking at the rainbow colours inside the bubbles. 
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