Explore the world of contrasts with your young children. These activities all use light and darkness to get attention and add fun. Be sure to talk about what you are doing as you work and play. The power of language grows with use.
Flashlights are grand fun in dark rooms. After the kids have had their fill of just playing with the light, you can try experiments with beams of light and mirrors. Can the kids use teamwork and cooperation to light up an object by bouncing beams from flashlights to mirrors? Can they find ways to make the path of the light turn corners? What surfaces can reflect light? Why are some better than others? If your flashlight has nice, fresh batteries, you may be able to change the shape of the beam by putting a cutout picture over the lens. Try a simple cut out shape, such as a square or triangle. The children will find that they need to focus the beam on a flat surface to see the shape. Colored plastic or cellophane can be used to change the color of the beam, as well. Try mixing the blue and yellow plastic to make green light, red and yellow to make orange, and red and blue to make purple. Can anyone figure out how to make brown??
Sunshine is a great source of activity ideas, as well. On the next bright sunny day, try making rainbows with prisms. You may even be able to make rainbows with curved, clear glasses or pitchers of water, or buy special prisms. Shadow tag is a super active outdoor pastime. Choose one player to be “it”, and have that player try to step on his/her opponents’ shadows to catch them. Your children will be fascinated to discover that shadows can help us tell time. Put a mark by the end of a shadow and notice what time it is. Visit your shadow later in the day and notice how it has moved. If you’re really feeling ambitious, you can put a stick or other tall object in the ground and make a clock that tells what time it is when the shadow points to each number.
Glowing toys are also favorites of young children. How long will the glow last? Children will enjoy finding ways to cover the glow surface during charging to create patterns of light and dark. Some hobby and craft stores carry glow-in-the-dark adhesive sheets. Think of the possibilities! Glowing shapes, letters, and numbers are just the beginning. Can you create an entire scene of glowing silhouettes?
Got the drama bug? Try a shadow theater. Hang a white sheet between the players and the audience. A bright light behind the players will cast their shadows onto the sheet. What kinds of shadows can be created with props? Cardboard cutouts make good, clear shadows. Two or more children can work together to create special shapes or alphabet shadows. Kids also may enjoy putting on a shadow play.
No matter what activities you choose, remember to build vocabulary and language skills, and if you have no idea where to get it, you're always could ask for this PapersOwl, for example. Talk about what you are doing with the kids. Use a wide variety of words in your conversations so the children will expand their vocabularies. These activities will add to the children’s store of experiences and lay groundwork for later steps toward literacy and learning.