Light Table For Kids: Fantastic Ways To Use It!

Light Table for kids

If you’ve never heard of or seen a light table, you might be wondering what it is and what all the fuss about it is. I did so too. But after having it around for some years, I genuinely believe that a light table for kids is a fantastic resource for them to play, engage, explore and learn while having fun. They are an invitation to learning.

A light table is basically “a horizontal or tilted surface of translucent glass or plastic with a light behind it, used as a lightbox, used for viewing transparencies or negatives” – this is according to the Oxford dictionary. But actually, you can do so much more with it than that – as you will see.

I am just a mom and not an education expert, and I am not married exclusively to any educational approach. I discovered them on a toy website I really liked and started seeing them on Pinterest. After browsing and seeing all their possibilities, honestly, I just thought we could have a lot of fun with one. So Santa was kind to drop one a couple of years when he was stopping by.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This blog is reader-supported. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, when you buy through the links, we may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks!

About light tables in education – Reggio Emilia

It has become popular in preschools and children’s early education, mainly thanks to the Reggio Emilia approach. It is an educational philosophy and pedagogy focused on preschool and primary education. Again, I’m no expert, and my children do not attend a Reggio Emilia school. However, I’ve read that they define their approach as a student-centered and constructivist self-guided curriculum that uses self-directed, experiential learning in relationship-driven environments. The program is based on respect, responsibility, and community through exploration, discovery, and play. Which also sounds very nice.

Some of the important and experimented with concepts in this approach are the combination of light, shadow, and transparency. They use windows, mirrors, old-school projectors, and light tables as resources in some activities to engage with the children and inspire them to learn. I imagine myself as a kid, and I know I would have loved it.

Note: If any of you have more information that I can learn from, and we could all benefit from, please share! 😀

What are the benefits of a light table for kids?

Light table for kids - Rice 3

Light tables are a fun invitation to learning. Educators often mention that children can focus for more extended periods and tend to have longer attention spans when engaging on a lighted surface. From my own son’s experience, I can say it is true.

They provide a fabulous learning opportunity for

  • language development
  • pre-writing skills
  • fine motor development
  • pattern and color recognition
  • creative thinking
  • problem-solving skills
  • spacial awareness
  • building
  • storytelling
  • adds a sense of curiosity
  • improve observation…

…and on top of all this, they are also great fun.

This is our kids light table.

Our light table is actually a light panel on a table. We got our light panel for Christmas when my daughter was 4, and my son was 1, and we love it. I did a lot of research, and because of the space in our house, I didn’t want to commit to an actual table that would always be taking up space. So instead, we went for a light panel that we place on our children’s table when we want to use it, which is excellent.

We chose the TickiT Rectangular Light Panel size A2. L 63.5cm x W 46cm x D 0.8cm. Illuminated area L 58.5cm x W 41cm.

The reasons that made me decide on this one:

  • Size: I liked that it was big enough to fit on our children’s table and that they would both have room to play if they wanted to engage in the activity at the same time.
  • Shape: I liked that it was flat and thin and rectangular, I have it stored under my desk leaning on the wall, so it doesn’t take much space.
  • Options: I liked that it had 3 different intensities of light to play with.

The only inconvenience is that the button – which is tactile- sometimes doesn’t recognize my children’s touch. Consequently, we have to press it a few times, but it always works. I believe it must be something about our table, but I thought I would mention it.

This is a similar light panel I’ve found on Amazon.com as our Tickit panel seems hard to find now on the US site.

What things can you do with a Light table?

You can do soooo many things with it! And here are some just to name a few:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Transferring drawings
  • Drawing in rice
  • Play with Magna Tiles
  • Play with translucent geometric chips
  • Explore objects from Nature
  • Play with water, soap, and bubbles
  • Writing in foam
  • Water bead sensory play
  • Play with translucent blocks
  • Sorting and counting colored gems
  • Scarves
  • Sensory circle pads
  • Play with mirrors and patterns
  • Science experiments with ice
  • Colour experimenting with transparencies

For more inspiration, check out TickiT’s light panel guide. It is wonderful!

Which accessories are great for the light table?

Light table for kids - Accessories

These are some of the accessories we have that help us have fun with the light table. Honestly, you do not need them, but they can be fun, engaging, and entertaining for the children.

  • Tickit Light Panel Cover (transparent tray) This has been great for the light table and sensory play, painting, and experimenting. You can put sand, foam, rice, pulses on it and have the children manipulate it. They can write and draw with it, transfer it to containers, play with cars and animals and create mini-worlds on it. Ideally, it would be as big as the light table so it would protect it.
  • Magnetic tiles – These magnetic tiles have been a fantastic discovery. Not only for the light table but also for playing on the floor. But when you combine the tiles with the light table, it really grasps their attention. You can play with them flat, creating 2D designs, or you can build in 3D, from cubes and pyramids to houses and spaceships.
  • Transparent geometric shapes – You can create so many patterns and designs with them! And you can also use them with math, for example, deconstructing a hexagon into 6 triangles.
  • Silishapes with textures – These are fun to explore with color and texture.
  • Transparent letters and numbers – It’s a fantastic way to invite them to discover the alphabet, spell words and start counting.
  • Scarves – Toddlers love scarves, and here you can also engage them because of their ability to let light through. The textures and colors will grasp the attention of the little ones.
  • Mirror – you can buy child-friendly mirrors specifically for this, and they are wonderful.
  • Stencils – we also have some animal stencils that have been great to match, trace, and even tell stories and create flat mini-worlds with them.

How to make your own DIY light table for kids

Light tables can be pretty expensive, and it’s a pity that not many children can enjoy them because of that. Luckily, so many creative teachers and parents out there have come up with easy DIY ideas to inspire you, so you can enjoy playing with light and shadow at home. For the purpose of this post, I have been researching, exploring, and adapting ways to create easy and cheap lightboxes at home. These are my favorite 3 (the ones I could do with things from around the house):

  • White translucent box with lights: I have used the Trofast box from Ikea, turned it upside down, and put some Christmas lights under it. It is a quick and cheap alternative that will make them curious. I like this option because the bottom of the box is entirely flat, so they can also draw on it. You can also light it with the iPad (like in the picture).
  • Clear Under the Bed Storage Box with Paper & iPad: I tried this with one of the boxes we have to store clothes under the bed. I taped a big sheet of paper to the lid (cut from an Ikea Mala paper roll). I put my iPad inside, and it gave a nice glow. It is not very bright, but it works! To have the light on for longer, you might want to go to Settings and adjust Auto-lock to 15 minutes or Never just while using it for this activity. Of course, you can also use Christmas lights or other lights you might have at home.
  • iPad or tablet: Put your iPad on a completely white screen (if you have Procreate or a drawing app, just have a white canvas), and you can use it as a small version of a light table. Again, if you want to avoid auto-lock quickly, go to Settings and adjust Auto-lock to 15 minutes or Never while using it for this activity.

Here are links to some other tutorials I’ve found online with other solutions and materials that might interest you:

  • Tinker Lab: Homemade {Easy, Low-Cost} Light Table
  • Pre-K Pages: DIY Light Table for Preschool
  • Hobby Mommy Creations: DIY Light Table – IKEA Hack – This is definitely more advanced, and we are not that handy at home, but if you are, you should go for it and have it made!

Endless possibilities with a light table!

As you can see you can do so many things with a light table. Above all, it is a precious learning resource that can also be a source of countless hours of having fun together or on their own.

I hope you have enjoyed our suggestions and pictures. I hope they will inspire you to play, have fun, learn and connect with your children. The time spent with the light table’s glow is magical and worth experiencing.

I am happy we had it during lockdown as it had them entertained on occasions where I had to focus on work. I hope we never have to go to that period again, but if so, this is an invaluable resource to have at home for similar times.

If you have any other suggestions of things that you do that your children enjoy, please share with us! We are always searching for new ways to make the most of what we have! And if you’d like some other ideas for sensory play, try playing with dyed rice here.

Happy playing!

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  1. Pingback: How To Dye Rice – Vibrant Sensory Play, Crafts & More – The Fairy Glitch Mother

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