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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Shadowy characters

Build a shadow puppet theatre, create your puppets, and get ready to tell your story.

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You’ll need

  • Scrap card
  • Scissors
  • Coloured pens or pencils
  • Sticky tape
  • Wooden skewers
  • Light coloured sheet or big piece of paper
  • Split pins (optional)
  • A torch or lamp (a torch on a phone would work)

This activity works best over two sessions. Use the first session to plan the story and make the puppets. Use the second meeting to briefly rehearse and then perform.

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers

Plan your story

  1. Split into small groups.
  2. Each group should decide on a theme for their story. Volunteers can give groups themes, or groups can choose for themselves. If you’re stuck for ideas, why not try a recreating a story you know, or theming it around a Scout camp or adventure?
  3. Once they know their theme, each group should choose a character for each person to ‘play’ with the puppet they make. Most groups will also need a narrator – they may want to share this role between them.

Make your puppets

  1. Everyone should draw the outline of their character, remembering that the audience will only be able to see its shadow – they won’t see any detail that’s drawn on.
  2. Cut out the character, and use sticky tape to attach a skewer to the back to be a handle.
  3. To make a moving part like an arm, cut it out separately and attach it to the main puppet with a split pin. Use the sticky tape to attach a second skewer handle to the moving part.

Make your theatre

  1. Two people should hold up the sheet or piece of paper, roughly at table height.
  2. Put the lamp or torch behind the sheet. It should face the audience, and shine so the light hits the back of the sheet.
  3. Put puppets between the light and the sheet so they cast a shadow the audience can see.


  1. Once they’ve had a chance to practice, the groups should take it in turns to perform.
  2. The groups not performing should be good audience members – sitting quietly, paying attention and clapping at the end.


Communicating well was important throughout this activity. Did you have to communicate differently when you were planning, practising, and performing? How did your communication change? When did you find communicating the easiest? How did you combine everyone’s ideas and decide on one story? What was important when narrating?

Performing can also help boost your self-esteem. Did you have to be confident to perform? Were you confident right away, or did it take time and practise? Did your group need you – did everyone have an important part to play? What were you especially good at in this activity?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Make sure people are careful as the lamp might get hot.

  • Alternatively, people could make the puppets by using their hands to cast shadows onto the sheet.
  • Groups could draw their set onto the paper, if you have enough for one sheet for each group.
  • The person leading the game could provide templates to help people draw common shapes like animals or people.

Everyone needs to take part in the puppet show, but not everyone needs to play the same role. It’s OK if some people would rather just move puppets, or just narrate.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Everyone should create their own story, with their own characters.