Make/Play/Watch/Read: Playing With Light

Tangled lantern light

Light fascinates me. It can be natural or artificial. It can be manipulated and it can manipulate us. By creating light, we think we are in control of our domain. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we need light more than it would ever need us. It protects us from the shadows, nourishes our food, and allows us to extend our available time for other activities. Since ancient times, we have worshipped light. It is something to study, to appreciate, to learn from. Now it’s time to take this curiosity and light up our Make/Play/Watch/Read! It’s time to play with light!

Make: Shadow Puppets

From the youngest of age, kids love to play with shadows and light. As a parent, it is a moment of joy watching your child realize they have the power to block light!!!

She-Ra: I have the POWER!!

The concept of cause-and-effect is essential for learning future scientific observations. This is the moment when you can capture their minds and bring them into the light of science. One of the easiest and most entertaining ways is with the power of shadow puppets. Nothing fancy! All you need is a light source, a plain background, and your dextrous hands. 

Now, I am definitely NOT the most dextrous. I could give you a plethora of excuses, but the only one you would believe is gamer thumb. However, I can achieve a semi-distant rabbit and a moderately acceptable duck. Shadowgraphy or ombromanie has been around forever, hitting its peak in the 19th century with French entertainer, Félicien Trewey. 

Hand shadows play with light
By seriykotik1970 from Moscow Russia – Hand Shadows I, Public Domain

The truth is, you will gain far more benefit from experimenting with the kids (with a quick search on the internet, if you are really stuck for ideas). Be it a late-night lunar eclipse, camping in the wild, or a quiet bedtime story, shadow hand puppets are a great way to play with light. 

Play: Iris.Fall (Nintendo Switch)

I love any game brave enough to play with different mechanics, especially with the use of light. I have already shared my love for Projection: First Light (read about here). It would be easy to think Iris.Fall is similar, but the graphics and mechanics are so very different. And I loved it all the same. 

Iris.Fall is an adventure puzzle game from NExT Studios. The game has a strong gothic narrative to coax you in and hold you right until the end. You play as Iris, awoken from a dream by a black cat who leads you to a rundown abandoned theatre. Cast your eye through the shadows and you soon learn there is more than meets the eye. Iris soon learns how to travel through the shadows and manipulate the light to solve the array of puzzles. As you pass through each level, pieces of the story come together to reveal why Iris is so important to this theatre. 

'Iris.Falls' playing with light

It’s fair to warn you, do not be fooled by the young girl child character. This story is gothic all the way to its very soul. There is a reason we fear the dark as children. It’s the question of what we cannot see, and Iris.Fall holds this close to its core. Some puzzles are straightforward, and then there are some with such complexity you may want to throw the towel in… Only to change your view ever so slightly and there’s the answer! Hang in there. It’s not a long game, and the storytelling is gorgeous right through to the end. 

Iris.Fall is available on Steam, Switch, and PS4. I played both Steam and Switch; the controllers seemed far more intuitive with the Switch, a big help during challenges such as the Rubik’s cube from my nightmares. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it. 

Watch: Tangled (Disney+)

Most of us will know Tangled is simply the Disney retelling of “Rapunzel,” the princess with the L-O-O-O-O-N-G hair. But that would detract from the most important feature of all: 

Flynn has his priorities right. Her hair glows! That’s cool, right? 

Tangled is one of my favorite Disney-Princess films because it loves curiosity. Everything about this movie is about curiosity. Shining the light on anything that attracts your curiosity and helping you solve its mystery.

The main protagonist is Rapunzel, a 16-year-old girl who has been quarantined in a tower her entire life. Something many of us can kind of relate to. Every day, she has to find ways to keep herself entertained (read: sane). There is only so much reading and cleaning a girl can do. She desperately relies on her curiosity to explore the limited world she has. Good thing she has a healthy dose of creativity to build on it! 

'Tangled' promo poster with lantern light

When the dashing and entertaining Flynn Rider happens upon her tower, Rapunzel sees an opportunity to satisfy her curiosity and explore further afield. There are many distractions along the way (and many saves, thanks to her creativity), but essentially it is her curiosity that drives her to see the light and reveal what was hidden in the shadows. 

Read: The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle

This is a last-minute addition to the Make/Play/Watch/Read selection, due to the sad news of Eric Carle’s passing. Most GeekMom readers will know of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the light it gave to so many children and their reading adventures. However, not as many people would know of The Very Lonely Firefly, presented in the same gentle and colorful manner. 

Cover of 'The Very Lonely Firefly' by Eric Carle

The story follows the life of a little firefly, born at sunset and in search of other fireflies. The little firefly flashes his little light, in hopes of finding others. As the firefly continues its search, Carle takes us on a night adventure filled with different forms of light and color. 

It’s a short children’s book and yet it captures a lot of emotion. It is perfect for snuggling up to read with a torch before you go to bed. Kids will love seeing different ways light can fill our nights, and remind us how our light impacts nature. Once you finish reading The Very Lonely Firefly, please remember to turn off your lights and give our nighttime critters a chance to do their thing too. 

Light is a fascinating subject for any age. It gives us so many possibilities to make, play, watch, and read. It really is the perfect medium to some quality geek-family time for everyone. Let us know in the comments how light inspires you this week!

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