While light tables can range from complicated mechanisms that aid architects with drafting to tools that help interpret aerial photographs, a light table for kids is a bit simpler. Cartoonists, animators and artists alike use light tables for various reasons, and the opportunities for artistic expression with these handy devices are endless. Kids love exercising their creativity and making art, which is why many classrooms are incorporating light tables for kids to ignite imagination and innovation.
Light tables assist children in sensory development, encourage growth and nurture their curiosity. This, in turn, helps children develop a variety of necessary competencies, as art education has been proven to increase activity in the brain, promote self-esteem, self-motivation, cooperation and a host of other helpful skills.
Having a wide array of light table activities at your disposal will help ensure your preschooler stays educated and entertained. We identified 35 perfect projects to help you get started.
35 light table project resources for preschool teachers
1. Making Faces
All you need are clear transparencies and colored permanent markers for this one. Draw and cut out pairs of eyes, lips, noses, hair and various accessories on the clear transparencies. Kids can arrange faces on the silhouette of a head drawn on paper over the light table. This helps kids explore facial features and express different emotions.
2. Frozen Slime
Modeled after the movie Frozen, this slime is glittery, blue and smells like peppermint. Follow the recipe from the link above and let your kids play with the slime along with other materials like pipe cleaners or cookie cutters over the light table.
Pour bubble solution into a clear plastic bin and place over the light table. Add watercolors if you'd like, and let kids blow bubbles into the mixture with a straw. This results in huge colored globules that students can observe and explore.
Melt plastic cups to create smooth, colorful discs for kids to arrange and overlap on the light table. Children can explore colors and shapes while discovering what happens when colors are combined with others.
5. Plastic Eggs
Simply open the plastic eggs and place them flat side down on the light table. Kids can explore vibrant colors and rearrange the fun shapes on the screen.
Create spider web designs on top of the light board using yarn. Then take transparent spider toys and layer them over the creations.
Hydrate some blue and purple water beads, add some transparent geometric shapes to represent stars in the night sky and put everything in a clear plastic bin over the light table. Preschoolers will love the feel of the squishy, slippery beads and the contrasting geometric shapes.
Fine motor skills
8. Lemon Drops
Move lemon drops from the big light table surface to small bowls using spoons. This promotes hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, as children have to chase the lemon drops around the table to capture them with their spoons.
Get a frame and some transparent paper to create a “canvas” and kids can go to town with clear, colored pushpins over the light table. Not only is it fun to see the shapes and glowing colors, but the pushpins create a great design once they're taken out as well.
10. Threading Straws
Thread transparent colored straw pieces onto a piece of string over the light table. Make shapes and designs, or wear the threaded straws as jewelry.
11. Alphabet Slime
Follow the recipe in the link above to create the clear slime and hide transparent colored letters within it. Kids use their motor skills to dig the letters out and can practice spelling words once they find the letters.
Math & science
This activity is better suited for slightly older children, but little ones are welcome to learn as well. With transparent, geometric blocks, kids can learn about halves, thirds, and even fourths if you're feeling ambitious.
Match transparent stars to print outs of common constellations, such as the big and little dipper over the light board. Then have kids identify them in the night sky!
Take a little colored glue, fill some cookie cutters, let dry and wah lah! You have your own collection of transparent symbols to arrange, learn about and play with on the light board.
Build ramps with blocks and transparent rulers over the light board. Roll transparent tubes down the makeshift slides, or even drive toy cars down them.
Drip colored water over salted ice and watch as the colors mix and match into a gradient. The salt creates pockets so the color will stick to the ice better. This project combines both art and science!
17. Earth Science
Round up some rocks and agates from outside and place all of your treasures on the light table. The light will help display the beautiful patterns in the agates and kids can investigate various types of rocks.
Collect flowers, leaves, small twigs or any other fairly small or flat item from outdoors and laminate your collection. Preschoolers can learn about flowers and foliage over the light table.
Teach your preschoolers math and building concepts by having them combine colored transparent straw pieces using Playdough to connect the ends. Encourage them to build structures or shapes!
If you have access to X- human or animal-rays at the school you work at, put them to use over the light table. Kids can study the different bone structures and learn about science.
21. Bubble Wrap
Who isn't mesmerized by popping bubble wrap? Write out letters with a permanent marker on the bubbles and layer it over the light table. As you show kids flashcards with different words on them, encourage them to pop out the letters of each word.
Hide see-through letters amidst gobs of silly putty and place on the light table. Preschoolers can search through the silly putty and find each letter to spell a word.
Trace outlines of your kids' favorite storybook characters on transparent paper, color them in and cut them out. Let them make up stories with the figures or practice their storytelling skills over the light table.
It sounds simple enough: draw letters on clear stones and encourage kids to create words.
25. Rainbow Salt
Tape different colors of tissue paper over the light table in a rainbow pattern. Pour salt in a bin and kids can practice their pre-writing skills, as well as making beautiful patterns amidst the colors.
Music & art
26. Flower Mandalas
Print out flower shapes online, gather some colorful glass stones and kids can arrange the beautiful colors to learn about patterns and vibrant floral creations.
This is a great activity to foster education about the different types of musical notes. Draw musical notes on several jars, draw corresponding notes on glass stones and watch as kids make patterns and mix and match to the proper jar.
28. Chalk Art
Have your preschoolers color pictures with chalk on regular white paper over the light table. Give the creation a simple white finish by painting over them with tempura paint to blend the chalk together.
Wrap some plastic wrap over the light table, pour some tempera paint in plastic cups and kids can use their fingers or cotton swabs to make colorful creations across the surface.
30. Colored Tape
It’s like drawing but instead, kids layer different colors of tape on the light table to create images. Children can learn about geometric shapes, angles or simply create a fun and colorful scene.
Gather some stamps, ink pads and clear contact paper, and you have the makings for some fun artistic creations over the light board.
Draw the keys of a piano on clear transparent paper and let kids match transparent plastic letters to the corresponding keys. This is a great way to get familiar with music even before piano lessons begin!
33. Fall Leaves
Make homemade exploration windows using these clever DIY instructions, or simply color with crayon over a leaf on a piece of thin paper. Kids can examine the different shapes, colors and seasons leaves belong to.
Winter can be dreary, but creating a winter scene with toy animals, fiberfill and wood tree blocks can make things more cheerful. This is a perfect opportunity to learn about winter, hibernation and animals!
Collect some pink or red Epsom salt, red and pink heart gems, red food dye and red and pink heart gems. Dye the Epsom salt various shades of pink and red, and then pour everything into a sectioned bin. Kids can use a tweezers to feel the different objects, arrange them over the light table and make Valentine's Day designs.
Let the fun begin...
Children learn in amazing ways and with a little guidance, you can help them develop the necessary skills to function and learn as they grow. These light table activities are just the beginning of a life full of learning.
If the idea of helping develop young minds excites you, you may be cut out for a career in early childhood education (ECE)! Learn more about the important role ECE plays in society.