Thursday, January 6, 2011

So What's With The Light Table??

Okay, so everywhere I look for early childhood ideas (books, blogs, etc.), I see light exploration. I was told that it’s such an important thing to explore because it’s a “magical material”; it can make shadows, it can make things glow, it can change the appearance of something, it can be reflected, it just is really cool! 
I decided, I just HAD to have one. I dreamt up great images of children gathering around in wonder, engaging in deep, thoughtful, and scientific conversations, embarking on discovery after discovery - what, did I think I was going to change the world by presenting a light table?  
Our light table - we change where we put it everyday.. this is just where it is put when we are not using it (for now)
I was fortunate enough to have one donated to me through a wonderful organization, Donors Choose, and I received it just before we went on our long winter break. I decided to not break it out before we left; I waited until our return to school (resisting the HUGE temptation of breaking it open and discovering the magic for myself). 
These are the materials for the kids to work with - any ideas? We are not just limited to this, just thought it would be a good starting point
A small group of students were invited to choose the light table as a place to go during center time on Monday, and 3 or 4 children have been visiting at this time every day since. The problem is, I thought that I would have all of these great things for the kids to do and thought provoking questions to ask, and when the time came - I just drew a complete blank! 
One student was particularly interested - he just couldn't get close enough!
It was really “cool” to the children right away, when they first had the opportunity to explore the new material in our classroom. We started just with shapes, and the kids took to them differently. Some wanted to hoard the pretty shapes, holding as many as they could while others sorted by color/shape or pretended that the shapes were cookies that they were going to “eat”. 
There was talk about shapes and colors, but for the most part, the interest died after a little bit, and I certainly didn’t feel much magic. 
I’ve run into this problem before, with introducing things. I know that many teachers have used the light table for awesome discoveries, projects, all sorts of things - I need some help! 
What do I say (or not say????)
What do I do (or not do????)
What’s with the light table? 


  1. We made a light table, and my little ones can't get enough of it! Try a making it a sensory table too! We put a layered of colored sand on ours and the children spent hours drawing pictures on it. Try tracing pictures with the help of the light, Shaving cream..... Thin translucent pieces of plastic sheets in various colors for color mixing..... Make sure to add items that are not translucent for comparison as well. I also change the color of the light bulb from time to time. That also changes things up a bit! See if you can get some x-rays those are fun too! Prisms, etc. Take some time to play and explore yourself. I run a very child driven program, but I like to make sure I have fun exploring too. Did you try it with the other lights out? When I introduce new things, I like to let the children come up with ideas or if I find something really cool that I saw somewhere else, I usually don't say much, but I take the time to sit down and play with it myself. Usually, if I'm having fun playing, trying things out and exploring, the children join in and we brainstorm all kinds of other neat ideas.

  2. Thanks for all of the great ideas! I will definitely have to play with it, make some of my own discoveries, and figure out where to go with it all :-) thanks again!

  3. Magna-tiles are a favorite here. Drawing with stencils. Color mixing with liquid watercolors. Color mixing with colored paddles. Painting suncatchers. Painting with a thin paper so the light comes through it. Explore leaves. I recently got these really cool animal pictures...when you put them on the table you can see their skeleton.

    Light tables can seem very limited at first. Once you get going with it the ideas will start coming. Just remember - everything is cooler with light coming through it!

    I really don't say or do anything...I just let the kids explore.

  4. @Bev- I'd love to hear more about those animal pictures! They sound like a great investment!

  5. This is the link where I got them: I believe that Discount School Supply has them also. I have a couple blog posts about them as can find them under light table tag.

  6. I have filled ziplock bags with clear hair gel and liquid water colors in primary colors (taped to double seal) and let the kids experiment. Also we have used clear plastic sheets to draw on with markers on top of the table.

  7. Oh awesome - going to try that too!!

  8. My husband made me a light table for my home childcare and 14 months and up just love the table. I have the colored tiles, sensory bottles also do great. Since I care for little ones, I put paint in a gallon zip lock bag and the children love finger painting through bag and it looks really cool.