For some reason I thought all children were scared of the dark on some level. So you an imagine it has caught me off guard that Rowan is so comfortable in the darkness. Every evening around 7:30pm or so, he asked to go outside. We howl at the moon (if she's out), play "movie theater", row our boogie board "boat" through the ocean of leaves with our baseball bat "oars", crazy walk, sprint around the garden, look for clues to a mystery, and any number of other ridiculous and fantastical activities. Rowan always leads the play session.
In honor of the lengthening nights and my little bear's energetic enthusiasm for outdoor twilight play, I read The Night is Like an Animal by Candace Whitman and Darkness Slipped In by Ella Burfoot to the preschoolers for storytime at the library. The stories are always followed by a craft and I wracked by brain to think of something three- to five-year-olds could make that would be more than just a one-off coloring project.
And then I remembered going to the theater when I was a young girl and seeing a shadow puppet rendition of traditional fairytales. They thrilled me like no other theater had. Something about the shadows and the movements and the necessity of our own imaginations to translate the dialog into expressions entranced me. The fairytales were originals--unedited, uncensored and violent. I loved them. Thinking back, I almost wonder if that's not where my love for fairytales really began. Not by reading them (gasp!), but by experiencing them in that strange shadow world.
So, we made shadow puppets. There were simple cuts outs for the children, and a more complicated version I made the night before of Three Billy Goats Gruff complete with a cereal box set on which the kids could try their own puppets.
They were entranced. Especially my darkling child. He can light up the whole house with his smile, but beware a storm brewing behind those blue eyes. I wouldn't have him any other way.
"Where there is much light, the shadow is deep."
Click here for the Three Billy Goats Gruff template we used.