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Light Table Activities for Children

Updated on December 31, 2014

Light Table Blocks

Translucent Blocks for the Light Table
Translucent Blocks for the Light Table | Source

Exploring Light and Pattern with Children

A light table creates a multi-sensory space for your children to learn and explore. One of our favorite activities is to turn off the lights and switch on the light table.

The light emanating from under the surface attracts the children's attention while highlighting a different perspective on many thin and transparent objects. Watch your children's eyes sparkle as you place transparent blocks on the surface. See the light shine through the blocks and watch your children's imaginations ignite.

Today we will be exploring the multi-sensory activities that your children can experience using a light table. We will be looking at transparent blocks, thinly sliced foods, and tracing to name just a few fun, educational activities you can do using a light table.

Come switch off the lights and switch on the light table...

Light Table Fruit Face - Looking Through Food

Oranges on the Light Table
Oranges on the Light Table | Source

Orange Slices on the Light Table

Slice an orange very, very thin and place it on your light table. You will be able to look right through the slices. Notice the membranes, the texture and the parts or the orange that you can't see though. Use a zester to cut off slices of the peel. Arrange slices on the light table to create a fruit face.

What other images could you create using the slices you have?

If your light table heats up you will start to notice the sweet smell of the orange. The juice will start to flow out and your fingers will get sticky. Pick up a slice of orange and taste the sweet juice. Multi-sensory activities like this one using a light table will delight the imagination of your children.

NOTE: You will want to clean the surface promptly with a soft damp cloth.

Blocks for the Light Table

Geometric Solids Light Table Blocks
Geometric Solids Light Table Blocks | Source

Light Table Blocks - Discover color combinations with transparent blocks

These transparent blocks allow light to shine through inviting children to explore color combinations. What happens when you place a blue block on top of a yellow block? Will it turn green? Why?

When introducing these blocks, be sure to teach the children how to take them out and put them away. Then teach them how to build and create patterns with the blocks on the light table. Explain the difference between having fun in the classroom and horsing around.

Take out the light table blocks carefully and always try to place them carefully when putting them away. Plexiglas scratches easily so show the children how to carefully place the blocks on the table.

Light Table for Young Children

Small Light Table
Small Light Table | Source

Learning Letters and Letter Sounds

Toddlers and young children love to play on a light table. One fun activity is to offer them a bowl of letters to pour out onto a light table. You will be surprised at how quickly this kids can learn their letters and letter sounds, all the while just playing on the light table.

Tracing Table

When I was a child we didn't have copiers so in order to make a copy we could either draw it freehand or we could hold it up to the window to trace it. The window became a light table. It was always fun to trace using the window but my arms would get tired and the pen's ink would dry out from the angle. I longed for a light table.

Do you have a light table?

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Light Table Gems - Math Patterns, Cars or Trains

Light Table Gems
Light Table Gems | Source

Glass Bead Patterns in the Light

Use Floral Marbles to create patterns on your light table. The light shines though the floral marbles and delights children while they create math patterns. Math is ultimately the way that we describe patterns noticed in nature. The light table entices children to play with these patterns as they begin to develop number sense.

Place a handful of these glass beads on the surface and have fun creating patterns. Start with one in the middle and place contrasting ones around the center to form flowers.

Make a long line to form roads or railroad tracks. Choose your favorite color to be the train or car to run along it.

For children learning to add and subtract, choose, say, 5 gems and see how many combinations they can make using just those five marbles. 0+5=5, 1+4=5, etc.

Or how about creating an ABAB pattern across the bottom like the little boy in the picture. Some children like continuing the pattern all the way across the bottom or even all the way around the table.

Glowing Gems on the Light Table - Creating patterns using a Light Table

Floral Marbles are flat on the bottom so that they don't roll off the table. They are also translucent allowing light to pass through. Children love making shapes, pathways and patterns with floral marbles on the light table.

Sort the colors to make ponds, fields and forests. Multi-shades of blues and greens may look like a frog pond. Darker greens without the blues look like fields and a mixture of browns, golds and greens may look like a forest.

Building Blocks - Magnetic Building Blocks

Children love to build and put shapes together. This building block set is unique because it uses magnets to connect the pieces. In addition to the magnets, each piece is made of a plastic in colorful tints that allows light to shine though.

When I first saw these blocks they were placed on a windowsill for sunlight to shine through. That was when I saw the possibility for using on the light table. Oh, what fun the children had creating buildings there.

They created buildings and then turned it into a village with roads made of floral marbles and used see through blocks for cars and trucks.

Seeing through Animals - X-Rays on the Light Table!

These delightful and scientifically accurate images depict animals on one side with their bone structure on the other. Children choose an animal, lay it on the light table and are able to see the bone structure through the image. This shows how the bones line up with the outside appearance of the animal. Of course you could always just turn the card over to see the skeleton but children can learn so much more by looking at them with the use of the light table.

One of the things that surprised me most when I first looked a skeletons was how much smaller the bones structure was in comparison to the outside of an animal including all its fur.

Are you thinking of building your own light table?

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Is a light table educational or just fun?

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Speaking of Light Tables - Share your light table experiences

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    • agaglia profile image


      4 years ago

      this was an interesting hub and I checked it out because I have a light table in my classroom. I can't use the little beads because my students are one and two years old. But we do the magna tiles and I have blocks with colored windows. I am going to do the orange slices - a great idea.

      thanks for this.

    • kindoak profile image


      4 years ago

      Lightboxes are versatile. I use one for indoor macro photography. works like a charm.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow! I've never heard of a light table! I totally want one for my kids. Great lens!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      What a cool idea! I didn't know about these.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Now that we have computer software, magazine and newsletter editors no longer need light tables. I assumed they'd gone the way of the dinosaur, but hey, kudos to the light table manufacturers for coming up with another market.

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 

      5 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Light table sounds like fun, I would have never thought of having one for kids. i used to work with it when I was doing archive management. So to me it was more a work tool than a fun thing :)


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