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maker playground

cardboard creatures | all ages

What types of animals live in a cardboard forest? KID museum needs your help to find out. Construct a creature out of cardboard, tape and glue. Experiment with different light sources and filters to see what types of shadows your creature creates.


Have you ever seen a shadow that looked like it was something else? A tree that turns out to be a coat rack or an elephant that’s just a pile of laundry? Light and shadow can play tricks on our eyes and make things seem different than they really are.

KID Museum’s cardboard forest, Light Paradise, (at our new flagship Bethesda Metro Center location) invites you to experiment with light and shadow as you explore using different cardboard creations. You can create your own cardboard creatures at home!

Using shadows to tell stories isn’t new; in fact, shadow puppets have been around for thousands of years, originating in China and India as a way of telling folktales and passing down traditions. Artists today, like the shadow light group, combine cardboard and paper sculpture with shadow and lights to tell complex and beautiful stories.


Cardboard can be the perfect medium to bring our creations to life. When we think of cardboard we usually think of the brown corrugated boxes used for packaging, but cardboard comes in lots of shapes, sizes, and kinds.

A cereal box is made out of a special kind of cardboard called chipboard, while delivery boxes are usually single-walled corrugated. The word “corrugated” means having ridges or grooves, so single-walled corrugated cardboard has a single layer of those wavy paper ridges in between two thinner layers of stiff paper. Collect lots of kinds of cardboard to create your creature. Pull the layers apart, cut against and with the corrugation, experiment with textures and layers to discover what kind of creature you might create. Use light to cast a shadow of your creature and tell a unique story.

  • What story do you want to tell?
  • How will you use different types or pieces of cardboard to create your creature?
  • What sort of shadow do you think your creature will cast? How can you change the way it interacts with the light?

For more inspiration, explore the artists of the Cardboard Institute of Technology: Jesse Wilson, Robin Frohadt, and the creations of Laurence Vallières.


Now that you have a plan and materials, use these cardboard construction techniques to create your design.

Once your creation is complete, experiment creating different shadows by holding it in front of different light sources. Try filtering the light by adding colored fabric or plastic over the light source, or use a different object like a sieve or berry basket to create interesting shadow textures.

Whatever your design, make sure to share your creatures and their casted shadows with for a chance to be featured on KID Museum’s website or social media. Be sure to include your name, age, and details about your creation.