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How to Build Your Own Light Box for Creative Play

Feb 28, 2013

If you follow any of the well-known preschool blogs, there's a good chance you've noticed light boxes and light tables growing in popularity in the past couple of years.

When I first saw them popping up all over the Internet, I wanted nothing more than to have one for the Hooligans in my home daycare, but cost was an issue, as light tables come with a hefty price tag, and size was a concern, as I needed something small and preferably portable for our environment. Being the thrifty soul that I am, I set out to see if I could make a light box of our own that would both fit the budget and meet our needs, using items that I already had at home.

Meet our humble, yet amazing, homemade light box!I made this using two simple items that I already had: an opaque, plastic container and a battery operated LED light.

Simply turn on the light, and place it into the container. Pop on the lid, and voilà ... instant light box! If your container doesn't have a lid, simply overturn your container, and place it over the light.

This light box is perfect for a small space, and for one or two children to play with. However, if you have several children to entertain during a play date, you can make a larger, inexpensive light table just as easily.

An over-turned storage container with a string of LED Christmas lights tucked underneath works perfectly. LED lights will stay cool to the touch, and will give a brighter and whiter light than what you see in the next photo. An opaque container is best for diffusing the light, but if your container is clear or transparent, you can achieve the same results by taping a single layer of waxed paper or tracing paper inside of the box.

Now you'll just need to gather up an assortment of materials for your child to explore.

Look for a mix of clear and coloured translucent items to use. CD cases, glass beads, plastic crystals, coloured cups and straws, inactivated glow sticks and game pieces are all favourites here. An ice cube tray, jars, tongs, scoops and tweezers are great tools for your kids to sort and explore with.

The thrill of playing in a darkened room, and gathering together around a collection of glowing objects, never grows old here. The Hooligans organize, sort and figure, and they test other toys from around the playroom to see what effect the light has on them. The other day, we covered each light box with a sheet of tissue paper to put a new spin on things.You can experiment with materials other than the ones I've suggested. Glasses filled with coloured water, a layer of salt for "drawing" in, and markers and tracing paper all provide open-ended opportunities for experimentation.

And there you have it! A great way to enjoy light play without breaking the bank!

If you enjoyed this activity, be sure to pop over to my blog to check out more of our easy and inexpensive arts, crafts and ideas for play! You can find us at Happy Hooligans.

Article Author Jackie Currie
Jackie Currie

Jackie Currie is a mother, daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind the blog Happy Hooligans. A self-proclaimed glitterphobe, she specializes in easy, affordable arts & crafts and good, old-fashioned play.

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