DIY Light Table + Light Play Explorations

DIY Light Table for Kids

…. Or perhaps the post should be titled “A Tale of Two Light Tables”?  Below are two DIY light table methods, one I created last year and one I put together this month. After reading more about the Reggio Emilia educational approach and being inspired by the photos in this post by Racheous, I’ve been trying to find more opportunities to provide light play in our home. Light play is a creative, open-ended learning experience for children with so many outlets for inquiry, experimentation, and most importantly — FUN! It can be a platform for discovering color theory, light and shadows, creating art, construction, and sensory play to name a few explorations. When we moved last spring, I gave away the first light table I made and decided to try an entirely different method making a new one. Both light tables have pros and cons, but ultimately I have a favorite that will be revealed at the end of the post. Which will it be…..? Method #1 or method #2?! THE SUSPENSE!!!


DIY Light box for kids


  • Clear Plastic Storage Container with a flat surface. The size I used was 28-quarts, so a bin like this would do the job.
  • 2-3 Strands of White Holiday Lights
  • Parchment Paper
  • Scotch Tape
  • Extension Cord (optional)

Okay, here we go. Take off the lid of your container, connect two or three strands of holiday lights, and lay them in the bottom of your plastic container. You could drill a hole in the side for the plug, but I let the plug hang over the top of the bin and that seemed to work just fine for us.

DIY Light Box for kids 1

Next, tear a piece of parchment paper the size of your lid, trim with scissors for exact size, and tape it to the underside of the lid with clear scotch tape.

DIY Light Box for kids 3

DIY Light Box for Kids 2

DIY Light box for kids

Snap the lid on, plug in your light box, and you’re done. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!



DIY light table 6


DIY light table 1

Open your storage container and lay it so that the interior of the bin exposed. In a well ventilated area, spray the inside of the bin with the frosted semi-transparent spray paint covering all interior parts of the bin. Leave to dry. Spray additional coats if needed.


DIY light table 4

DIY light table 7

DIY light table 6

Once the container has completely dried, adhere your LED lights inside the bin.  Turn the lights on, snap on the lid, and voila!



While Light Table #1 was much easier to put together and far less expensive, the big downside of Light Table #1 is that it requires an electrical outlet. It limits where you can play and is also a safety concern. Light Table #2 required a bit more work and was more expensive, but is battery operated which allowed the table to be in any location. I also didn’t have to worry about the safety factor of being near an outlet or using an extension cord with the kids. After awhile though, the frosted paint would flake off where the lid snapped in place to the bottom of the container and would eventually in time need a new coat of paint.

Which out of the two do I prefer?  Light Table #1. Hands down. It’s low-cost (most of the materials were found around the house), easier to assemble, and the light is more evenly dispersed across the surface. The only thing Light Table #2 has going for it was that it was battery operated, which was handy because we could transport it anywhere.

If you’re interested in creating your own light table, the following posts served as excellent references:

{Easy, Low-cost} Light Table from TinkerLab
Super Simple DIY Light Table from Kara’s Classroom
Homemade Light Box from Happy Hooligans 


DIY light box 1


The below explorations are just a few of the ways we use our light table. Many of the ideas were inspired by Artful Parent (like THIS POST and THIS POST). See if you can notice the difference between the two tables in the pictures and how much these little hands have grown over the past year!


light table color blocks 2

light table blocks



waterbeads baby

light table watercolors 1


light table magnatiles 1

DIY light box

Light table explorations in the order of appearance from top to bottom:

  • Blocks with transparent centers — I learned about these wonderful rainbow staking blocks and kaleidoscopic blocks from my daughter’s preschool. The girls love playing with them with and without the light table.
  • Water Beads — My then 4-year-old enjoyed sorting the water beads and my then baby had such a good time exploring their texture.
  • Drawing with watercolors on the light table – Illuminates art projects in a whole new way.
  • Magna-Tiles — Magna-Tiles are so versatile and offer both color play and construction when using them in conjunction with the light table.


Have you built your own light table? I’d love to hear about how and/or the tools you use for light table play!



One Response to “DIY Light Table + Light Play Explorations”

  1. Tammy Aulisio says:


    I am so glad I found these directions. I am a grandmother of a six, three and two year old – who recent retired to take of my grandchildren. I am excited to try this light table.

    Thank you.

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