How To Make Hand Shadow Puppets

Hand shadow puppets are more fun to play with in candlelight. Playing with hand shadow puppets was a past time back in the days when electricity was uncommon, and in areas where gas lamps and candles were still used at night. Hand shadow puppets are very challenging to make, since your hand and fingers should be flexible to achieve a recognizable form. Here are some tips when you plan to have fun in candlelight:

  1. Place a candle or gas lamp on a table that is around 5 feet away from a wall. It is best that the wall is bare and flat, so that the shadows cast will be clear.
  2. Sit or stand in between the candle and the wall. Depending on how large or small you want the shadow to be, adjust your distance from the wall. If you move nearer the wall, the shadow will be more defined and smaller. Moving away from the wall will make the shadow a little blurred, but larger.
  3. Using one hand or both your hands, create interesting shadows by adjusting your hand and fingers. The most common hand puppets are the bird, with its wings stretched, which is actually both hands joined at the thumb, with the palms open and fingers outstretched. You can also create a dog or horse’s head, with one hand opened sideways, and the other hand clasping the open hand between the thumb and the forefinger. The thumbs serve as the dog/horse’s ears, and the pinky can move to look like the dog/horse’s mouth.
  4. There are a lot of other hand puppets, illustrated in books, that you can imitate. Some of the animals you can imitate are: turtle, the full body of a bear, the full body of a dog, a goose head, an elephant’s head, a bull dog’s head, a rabbit, and a snake. A shadow of an old man’s face can also be created with two hands. The illustrations make it easier to practice.
  5. Create a story with your hand shadow puppets. You can narrate the story at the same time you do the hand puppets, or have another person narrate the story. It is a fun family activity, especially with kids in the audience. You can also encourage the kids to practice and participate with you. It may also be a fun assignment for them to create their own puppet show for the family to see. This will develop the children’s creativity and imagination.

For safety, an adult should always be around when children are organizing a hand shadow puppet show. The candle or gas lamp might cause a fire and other accidents such as burns, when people around it are careless. Also make sure that the candle or gas lamp’s wick is not too large so as to damage the ceiling with its dark, thick smoke. You can make the shadows clearer by adjusting your distance to the wall. Also make sure the room is well ventilated, especially when a gas lamp is used.


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