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Meet the Light Box – Your New Must Have Toy?

photos via Play at Home Mom


Are you guys familiar with children’s light boxes?  I recently ran across two different blogs (Play at Home Mom and Teach Preschool) that are having all kinds of fun with them and I’m kinda in love.  These blogs have shown me so many cool things you can do with a light box that I’m pretty sure it won’t be long until I decide we absolutely have to have one.  Seriously, I think these could be right up there with our beloved sensory box.

From what I’ve seen it looks like you can buy a light panel like this one.  It’s not exactly cheap but it is a lot thinner and more easily stored than the DIY versions I’ve seen.   Plus you can put a clear plastic bin on top of it so that even babies can get in on the fun.  If you do want to go the DIY route to try to save some money (or if you have older kids who like constructing things), Deborah over at Teach Preschool has two great tutorials for doing so.  Click through for those as well as lots of great ways to use your light box.


Above you can see the difference between a commercial light panel and some DIY light boxes.  You can find a standard size light box DIY here (actually this is an update to the original post, just scroll down to the bottom for that link).  There’s also a mini light box DIY here.  And if you’d like to go the other direction and build something more substantial that’s suitable for multiple kids, see here.

So once you have a light box, what do you do with it?  So glad you asked!  Here are five activities that looked like the most fun to me.

  1. Create art on top of it – I found two methods for making your light box paint and art ready.  This one is more temporary and was used just for painting.  This one is a permanent solution and is used to paint but also for fun with water and shaving cream.
  2. Play with sand and salt – See this post for lots of great suggestions on tools and materials.
  3. Play with sorting and patterns – This post highlights lots of great ways to use light and shadow for this purpose.
  4. Play with colored bubbles.
  5. Make your own colored discs – Follow the instructions in this post and melt plastic cups to make your own colored discs.  That in itself would be a fun afternoon activity for the kids.

So have I convinced you that you need a light box yet?  My dilemma is whether to make or buy.  You all know I’m a sucker for a good DIY but the retail version is a lot smaller/thinner and I’m starting to run out of room around here!  On the other hand, that price tag is a little hard to swallow.  Maybe I could jimmy something up with a tracing light box like this one? Hmmm…

Similar Stuff:
DIY Veggie Garden Sensory Box
DIY Creativity Center (Toddler-Friendly and Baby-Proof)
Every Baby Should Have a Treasure Basket – Here’s How to Make One



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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

www.StarHughes.com June 23, 2011 at 4:56 am

Wow, such a cool idea!!! I’m 21 and would like to play with that :) Looks like fun!
Star Hughes Living


LatteJunkie June 23, 2011 at 5:13 am

Love the idea. Hubby thinks he’s making one tomorrow :) Thanks for the inspiration!


Mommy, Papa and the 'Nuts June 23, 2011 at 6:31 am

Love this post AND the links to those blogs! Thank you!!! Awesome as always :)


echis June 23, 2011 at 11:24 am

Oh my monkeys!!! THANK YOU for the great new gadget that we have to have! I have never considered one before…but I think we have to have one! What fun! ***********I LOVE your blog, first thing I check when I wake in the morning. Thank you for all your work and ideas!!!!


Secret Mommy June 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm

I’ve wanted a light box ever since my kidlets played with one in the art room at our local Children’s Museum. I struggle with the same dilemma of whether to make or buy. If I make it would be a large table type thing that *could* be used for other things, I guess…and would just become a permanent piece of furniture in some room. Maybe a re-purposed end table????? Thanks for all these good links!


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com June 23, 2011 at 6:12 pm

So glad you guys are as excited about this one as I am!!


Deborah June 26, 2011 at 11:38 pm

I hope to buy a light box one of these days too:) Thank you for sharing the ideas!


LeeanneA / KMullally June 27, 2011 at 12:19 am

I have been following these post from my blogging peers – these ladies blow my mind! :)
In this link you can see the light table I got from a garage sale for $5 – I was thrilled! It’s up on a bit of an angle because I think it’s actually a photographers light table! But we love it!


Brianna September 23, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I have a glass coffee table. A couple of years ago I discovered I could plop a desk lamp under it, angle it up and hey presto! Easily packed away (the lamp) no storage required and fabulous for tracing among many other things. If it’s not bright enough change to a higher wattage globe &/or add an additional lamp!


Caroline November 1, 2011 at 9:45 pm

FYI, you might want to consider two other options. You can buy new and used light boxes on ebay for doctor’s offices. Just look up x-ray light boxes. Some of the new models are inexpensive. Just remember they were made to hang on walls.


Second, check out Evil Mad Scientist shop. They have kits for building interactive lights and programmable lights (including just solid colors). My favorite is the Peggy board, where you can just hot swap LEDs. Not cheap, but still cheaper than the professional board sold on amazon and with a lot more creative options in terms of colors, size, etc.


The octolively might be a cheaper and more fun way to go…



Ashley L December 3, 2011 at 1:14 am

What did you decide on? Did you get one? I am thinking of getting one for my kids for Christmas and I am having a hard time deciding what to buy.


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com December 3, 2011 at 3:20 am

Hi Ashley,

I was contemplating this for my daughter’s first birthday but went another way and we’re doing a play kitchen for Christmas so we didn’t end up getting one. It’s still one my list though and I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with one for a birthday soon. If you do get one, let me know how it turns out!


Amanda December 13, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I did it! I refashioned a lighted hanging art box (took out motor/music box/speakers, replaced imaged top with clear plexiglass lined with 2 layers parchment paper). Total cost $9.64 (plus parchment paper and tape on hand). Now to get creative with ‘work’ for the kids…


krinajean March 26, 2012 at 8:04 am

We have a lightbox at my new ECE centre and I’ve been looking at ways of using it more so thank you for these links, you’ve inspired me!


Sarah June 28, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Hi thanks for this article! I’ve recently bought a light panel for my 2 yr old and wonder how I can make the lightplay as safe for him as I can so as not to affect his eyesight. Is there a stipulated time limit for each time it’s used and how dark should the surroundings be? Thanks in advance for your help!


Beth November 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm

What a great inspiration. I was just wondering if you have more info on the picture that has the wooden light table


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