Light tables add a wonderful, magical element to play and assist in sensory development. They can help nurture curiosity and creativity and gives children a different visual perspective on everyday toys and items. Light tables are great for exploring the play of color, shadows, light, transparency and observing small details. They are most appropriate for pre-school and kindergarten age children, however, older children could appreciate this type of play and exploration as well!
Purchasing a light table can be pretty pricey, but there is an extremely simple way to make your own at home! Read on for the easy directions and simple materials you need to to make your own light table. I have also included activity ideas and items you can use on top of your table.
-A clear “under the bed” type storage box with a snap top lid. I used a storage container with a pink lid and it worked beautifully. However, opt for a clear, colorless container and lid if you’re able to.
-White tissue paper or tracing paper. Don’t use parchment paper because it cannot be taped to anything.
-A string or two of white holiday lights. If you have a very long strand, one will be enough. Or, use two shorter strands of lights.
- Line the inside of your storage lid with the tissue paper and use the tape to secure it in place.
- Spread the lights evenly around the inside of the box and make sure the end of the cord hangs out so that you can plug it into an outlet. You should be able to close the box all the way even though the cord dangles out of the side of the box.
- Place your selected items on top of the light table and let your child enjoy playing!
Items you can use on top of your light table:
-Glass pebbles (often used as vase fillers) You can find these on Amazon or at craft stores like Michaels or Jo-Ann Fabrics
–3-D geometric solids
–Shimmering Water Rainbow Blocks
-Nature on the table! Collect leaves and flowers or any small, flat item from outdoors and inspect it over the light
-Water beads…I LOVE these things! They have such an interesting texture and are really fun to feel and manipulate. A great tactile sensory activity and definitely fun to use over a light table. Just be very careful and always supervise your child while using these to make sure they do not put them in their mouth! To purchase, you can head on over to the The SPD Shop!
-Crystals or gemstones. Clear quartz, rose quartz, amethyst, selenite, fluorite, tourmaline, moonstone, lazulite are all great options. Head to your local spiritual/ metaphysical shop to pick some up!
-Colorful transparent disposable cups
-Colored ice cubes…watch them melt over the table! (you can color them with food coloring or just by adding juice)
-You can also experiment with ice cubes by incorporating salt and colored water. Drip colored water over salted ice with eyedroppers- the salt creates pockets so that the color sticks to the ice better.
-Clear colorful straws
–Agate light table slices
-Bubble wrap. You can turn this into a fun activity by writing out letters with a permanent marker on each bubble. As you show your child a flashcard with different words on them, ask your child to pop out the letter of each word. You can adapt this activity to match the learning level of your child.
-Pour salt on the light table and let your child draw letters, shapes, numbers, or words out in the salt. You can also do this with soap foam or shaving cream. For children who are sensitive and have some tactile sensory sensitivity, I’d recommend using the soap foam instead of shaving cream as it is less harsh on the skin (it’s soap!). Shaving cream is harmless, but depending on the brand, can have a strong smell or a tingling sensation on the skin. To add a fine motor element to this, you can use Q-tips to draw in the shaving cream/ soap foam!
-Bubble solution! Pour bubble solution into a clear plastic bin and place on top of the light table. You can add watercolors and let your child blow into the mixture with a straw.
There’s your list! Good luck making your light table! If you have any other items or toy suggestions that aren’t listed above, comment below! Basically any item that’s transparent and interesting to look at can be used on top of a light table!
Author: Christina, OTR/L & Creator of Sensory TheraPLAY Box, LLC
Visit Sensory TheraPLAY Box’s website here