Simple Nativity Shadow Puppets to retell The Christmas Story


  • Use a projector to create flickering light if this is what you are going for.

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  • Make a holiday-themed show. Find a story on the Internet about something relevant to the holiday, and make the characters out of paper, write down what each character will say and do, and memorize it. Get a friend or family-member if necessary.
    • A good idea is to make a monster story for Halloween, Santa or Reindeer story for Christmas, and Bunny/Egg/Chicken story for Easter.

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Kids These Days Have Probably Never Heard of Hand …

2020-7-6 · The use of hand shadow puppets for entertainment has declined since the 19th century, because light bulbs became widely available and cinema started to become mainstream. Ideally, the shadow puppets are best seen when you only have candlelight as your light source. For this reason, the form of entertainment was more popular in olden times.

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Shadow play – Wikipedia

2020-6-16 · Shadow play, also known as shadow puppetry, is an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment which uses flat articulated cut-out figures (shadow puppets) which are held between a source of light and a translucent screen or scrim.The cut-out shapes of the puppets sometimes include translucent color or other types of detailing. Various effects can be achieved by moving both the puppets

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Butterflies: Colourful Shadow Puppets

Learn an easy way to make colourful shadow puppets with kids! Making a set of vibrant butterfly shadow puppets and playing with light and shadows will be a great nature STEM project.

Hand Shadow Puppet Animals

via Artists Helping Children

Here are some more cute ideas from Artists Helping Children that you can try out. We love the butterfly, dog, camel, reindeer, and goat. You have options galore and we’re sure you can come up with some too.

via Lemon Harangue Pie

via Lemon Harangue Pie

There’s a further great selection of hand shadow puppets here including turtle, rhinoceros, cat, and ducks. Which one will you try first?

How to Make Shadow Puppets with Moving Parts

Many of the traditional shadow puppets from China and Indonesia have articulated limbs. If you want to learn how to make shadow puppets with moving parts, you can do it with our free printable template of medieval knights. The trick is to use miniature brads!


Encourage children to use words like shadow, puppet, theater, lamp, light, shine, outline, shape, and dark. Emphasize science process words like describe, compare, notice, and observe.


  • Tape the box up well so that it's sturdy and closed.
  • Then trace about 1 – 1 1/2 inches away from the edges of the large faces of the box. Do this on both sides. These are your marking lines.
  • Next cut out the large rectangles you just drew. We used a utility knife for this. Wait! Save the cardboard you just cut away! You can use that for making puppets.
  • If you need to add more tape to the inside of the box to make it more sturdy, go ahead and do that now.
  • Find a sheet of fairly thin white or light-colored paper. Tracing paper or wax paper would work well too. We just used plain old copy paper.
  • Tape that over the hole on one side only. That side with the paper faces your audience. The other side is where you, the puppetmaster will work your magic.

If you want to decorate your puppet theater, you can. But remember, it will be dark as you give your show, so the audience really won't see a lot of what you design on it. So keep it simple. The image to the right is an example of a possible border around your theater. Click it to find the original image.

Below are the puppets—simply shapes cut from cardboard with sticks taped on. We used bamboo skewers, but you can use craft sticks or straws as well. To make your puppets more lifelike, cut out legs, jaws, or arms separately from the body parts and attach them with paper fasteners (brads). Be sure to attach a stick to each part so you can move both pieces. Sprite made her shark have a hinged mouth! Very scary!

The stars of the shadow puppet show.

One Comment

  1. Karyn says:

    November 29, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks so much for the chance to guest post here! Love your site! 🙂


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How to make your own Nativity Shadow Puppet Show

If you are interested in downloading this set, you can do that through our newsletter sign up form above or by purchasing the templates in our store.

To make the shadow Puppets, I printed them on card stock paper and cut them out- the cutting took some time, so enlist a few helpers!

For the sticks, I used coffee stir sticks, but bamboo skewers would also work great! I taped them onto the back of the cut-outs. You could make them more durable and long-lasting by laminating them, if you want.

For the display, I used a white sheet and pinned it in the doorway. We shined a light onto the back of the sheet and let the kids act out the nativity story.

They had so much fun taking turns holding the diff

They had so much fun taking turns holding the different people and animals in the story! There are a lot of different puppets, so if you do it at a family gathering there will be enough parts for everyone!

When we get together for the holidays there are a lot of kids and grandkids, so everyone wants something to hold.

This is a beautiful, simple and fun way to to tell the nativity story!

A Pioneer SamplerA Great Living Book

This book is actually the inspiration for our making a shadow puppet theater! In the book, the Robertsons spend a cold winter's evening around the fire watching to Granny cast shadows on the wall as she tells a silly story about hobgoblins.

This is such a wonderful way to learn about the American pioneers. The book centers around the Robertsons, a backwoods family of nine. Engaging stories about their lives teach about the lifestyle of our American forefathers and mothers. Interspersed among the stories are factual pages with beautiful line drawings and activity suggestions. A fascinating book!

Thanks for visiting. I hope that your puppet theater is a grand success!


Younger children may struggle to make the shadow shapes they want to with their hands. They may also have difficulty imitating their partners’ hand shapes. Have a few ideas ready for simple hand puppets for them to try—maybe a bunny, a duck, or a monster with a huge mouth. Or provide socks they can fit over their hands—by opening and closing their hands, they will have created a creature with a big mouth!

Reader Success Stories

  • Lily White

Jun 27, 2020

    Lily White Jun 27, 2020

    “I had a competition where I had to make a puppet show and I thought of shadow puppets. But I did not know how to make them! I tried googling them, but this was the only tutorial which was easy, thank you! ” …” more

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