I remember the very first time I saw a light table in a classroom, I was mesmerized by the soft glow and the reflecting colors.
There was just something about it that was super soothing and comforting to me.
And who doesn’t like soothing and comforting? I mean, those words sound like a cozy night in with a good book and a hot cup of tea!
Well, after making my discovery, I thought to myself: “My students will 100% enjoy something like this.”
But buying one was out of the question, it was just too expensive for me.
So, what did I do?
I MADE ONE!
Yes friends, I went through a full-on DIY phase, and an amazing light table came out of it!
And guess what? You can do the same!
Just listen to this week’s episode to find out how.
Why You Need a Light Table in Your Classroom!
Let me ask you a question: Do you have a light table center in your classroom? If your answer is “no” and “what’s that?”, keep reading!
What’s a Light Table?
A light table is a translucent flat surface, like a tabletop, with a light source underneath. It’s usually a little wooden table with a piece of clear acrylic on top and a light that shines from the bottom. The concept is similar to that of stained glass.
Where to Find One
Light tables come in many different shapes and sizes. Some companies make them specifically for use in early childhood classrooms.
However, since most traditional light tables are not in my budget as a teacher, I made my own. And so can you! No need to spend over $200 on a light table if you can DIY it, right?
And lucky for you, I have some simple instructions you can follow!
The first time I made a light table I realized that you don’t really need a lot of things to do it. All I needed was a clear plastic storage tub — the kind that goes underneath your bed —, some tinfoil and white tissue paper, and puck lights.
For about $20, you’ll be able to make your dream of having a light table a reality, just like I did! Just follow the instructions below:
Step 1: Line the inside of your under-bed storage container with tinfoil.
Step 2: Place battery-operated puck lights inside.
Step 3: Tape white tissue paper to the inside of your container’s lid, and then flip it over and put it on top of the tub. Activate your puck lights and voilà, You’ve got yourself a light table!
If you want more detailed instructions, you can find them here.
What Do Children Learn When They Use a Light Table?
Some people might think that a light table is just for science exploration, but there’s a lot more to it than that. A light table can be used to enhance skills like literacy, mathematics, and writing, if all of it is done in a fun and playful way.
Children are naturally drawn to the gentle glow of the light table, like moths to a flame. And they can stay there for long periods of time, which stretches their attention spans. And that means that you can use your light table for everything, from open-ended play experiences to teaching academic concepts, and more!
The Pros and Cons of Light Tables
If you’re on the fence about having a light table in your classroom, here are a couple of pros you should know:
- It’s highly engaging, which means your students will love to play there and will remain on task for longer periods of time.
- It’s always a very popular center, because children don’t usually have it at home. And that means the light table center will just be extra special.
Now, let’s move on to the cons. These are what kept me on the fence for a while before I made my own light table:
- It needs to be near a power source. Now, if you make your own like I did, this won’t be an issue, because puck lights are battery-operated! But, if you have a traditional light table, then it will definitely need a power source.
- It might be too big for your classroom — which is why, again, I made my own —.
- A commercial light table can be super pricey, unless you make your own.
Answering Some Practical Questions
You might be asking yourself a few questions about light tables. Lucky for you, I’m here to answer them!
Where Do I Store My Light Table?
Because I used a small under-bed storage box to make my light table, I can simply tuck it away underneath my sensory table. And whenever my students want to play with it, they can just slide it out and use it right there on the floor.
You can also keep it on a tabletop. After all, it’s just an empty plastic box and it doesn’t weigh much.
How Long Do the Lights’ Batteries Last?
The answer to this depends on the type of puck lights you get. I got lucky because I found some LED puck lights on sale at a discount store, and they didn’t cost much.
The batteries in those lights lasted me quite a while. It took three weeks of daily use for one of them to give out, and the table still works even if that happens!
How Often Do I Change the Materials on a Light Table?
The answer is easy: Whenever my students’ interest starts to wane.
As a general rule of thumb, I like to change things out every two weeks. But, if their interest starts to decline sooner than that, I change it up earlier! It all depends on how engaged the children are with the materials I’m using.
You might also be wondering what activities your students can do on a light table. Well, I answer this question in more depth — and with a ton of examples — in the video above, so make sure to watch it!