Dinosaur Shadow Sketching

Learning Areas:

  • Technology
  • Art


What is this activity?

ECSEL Standards

What skills are being enhanced? What knowledge is gained?


What do you need to prepare for this activity?



Step by step guide

ECSEL Prompts

What questions can you ask to promote ECSEL thinking and discussions?

Extended Learning

How can you extend children’s thinking?


Bring a large piece of paper outside with toy dinosaurs. Assemble dinosaurs away from the light on the paper so they cast a shadow. Support children in using pencils or other art materials to sketch and trace shadows made.

ECSEL Standards & Learning Goals

What skills are being enhanced & what knowledge is being gained through this activity?

Emotional Understanding

Children will be able to differentiate between their feelings and the feelings of others at different parts of the activity.

Emotional Regulation

Children will have opportunities to regulate their bigger emotions and feelings with teacher or adult guidance, if necessary.

Emotional Expression

Children will be given opportunities to express their emotions and feelings appropriately with teacher or adult support.

Emotional Identification

Children will be able to identify their feelings that arise while participating in this activity.

Problem Solving

Children will be able to think about how shadows work and make decisions about how they want their shadow dinosaurs to look. If social problems arise while working collaboratively, teachers will support children in coming up with their own solutions.

Empathy & Prosocial Skills

Children will have opportunities to share materials with others and work collaboratively to complete their shadow sketches.

CASEL Standards

Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Self-Management, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision-Making


  • Large pieces of paper, enough for each student
  • Art materials decided on by children (pencils, crayons, markers, etc.)
  • Toy dinosaurs of different sizes (enough for each student)
  • Open space (inside or outside) with access to natural light


  1. Start in circle time (inside OR outside). Have a discussion about shadows:
    • What is a shadow?
    • What makes a shadow happen?
    • What does it feel like to have a shadow?
    • Can you make your shadow show a particular emotion? What do you need to do to accomplish this?
    • How can you make your shadow look excited? Frustrated? Angry? Sad?
    • What else around you is making a shadow? Which shadows are big and which are small?
  2. Introduce the activity by asking children what they know about dinosaurs. For example:
    • How many dinosaurs can you name?
    • Which dinosaurs are big? Which are small?
    • Do all dinosaurs look the same? What is different looking about each type of dinosaur?
    • What do you think dinosaur shadows would look like? How would they be similar or different to your own shadows?
  3. Tell students that they are going to be making shadow art using dinosaur toys. Each student will get a large piece of paper and will need to find a spot on the ground to complete their art. Guide children to place their dinosaur on their paper and use their art materials to trace the dinosaur’s shadow. Guide children in setting their dinosaur up correctly so that it casts a shadow on the paper. Demonstrate how to begin using the art material of their choice to outline the dinosaur’s shadow.
  4. Tell children that once they outline their dinosaur they can choose to color it in or find another dinosaur they want to trace.
  5. Ask children what drawing shadows makes them feel. Be specific in asking questions about how they feel making their artwork. For example:
    • Look at your completed drawing! What does it look like? What does it make you feel seeing your shadow drawing complete?
    • What did this activity make you feel? What was easy and what was challenging?
  6. After children have completed their individual shadow drawings, tape a large piece of butcher block paper to the floor or ground. Set up a line of different shaped and sized dinosaurs so that each shadow is visible. Encourage children to work collaboratively using the materials chosen to complete a joint dinosaur shadow sketch.
  7. Once completed, return to circle time and start by having each student share their personal drawing to the class. Ask them to describe their dinosaur. After each child has shared, show their collaborative dinosaur shadow sketch and support children in discussing how both experiences were, what feelings arose, and what was challenging about this activity.

ECSEL Prompts

ECSEL Prompts are helpful questions & guiding statements you can use to provoke children’s thinking about emotions. These prompts are related to this specific activity.

Thank you so much for sharing with your friends! A friend wanted to borrow the dinosaur toy that you used to make your drawing and you were so nice to let them use it.

I see your eyes are wide and you gasped when you noticed a shadow following you around! What does seeing your shadow make you feel?

It looks like your shadow does everything you do! Can you show me a shadow that looks happy? What about a shadow that looks disappointed?

Seeing our own shadows is different from the small ones our toy dinosaurs have. Do you feel different tracing the dinosaur shadows than you did when we were looking at our own shadows?

Sometimes when we make art we make mistakes, and that can be frustrating or make us sad or angry. Can you take a few deep breaths and then tell me what you’re feeling or use your words to describe what happened?

Uh-oh, it looks like the shadow of your dinosaur is really really small (or really really big), and that might make it hard to trace. What do you think we can do to make it easier for us to trace?

Extended Learning

Use these questions & ideas to extend children’s learning!

Help strengthen children’s emotional identification and expression with a game. Have children work as a team to figure out what emotion their friend is showing just based on his/her/their shadow. Whisper an emotion to the student casting the shadow. Have that student show that emotion with their body and freeze so their friends can try to guess what emotion they are feeling. How did you know what they were feeling? Incorporate dinosaurs by guiding children to act as dinosaurs experiencing different emotions. How does this change their shadows?

Bring the activity inside by showing how light changes the shadow of an object. Use flashlights or lamps to change the direction of the light and of the shadow. Ask the children what they notice about the shadow when the light changes directions. Try tracing objects under different lighting arrangements.

Preschool/Pre-K – Dinosaur Shadow Sketching

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