DIY: colorful discs for the light table in preschool

I am not so lucky as my sweet friend Leeanne over at Kreative Resources who managed to find a free set of plexiglass discs to use on her light table. In fact, I don’t even have a light table! But after reading several ideas from others, I have managed to make my own discs and light table. This post is about the discs and my next one will be a little tutorial on the light table so stay tuned…

These colorful discs are a spin off of a “not so nutty” idea for making a rainbow suncatcher shared by “Life in the Nuthouse“! As soon as I saw how to melt plastic cups, I went on a search for the perfect clear, colorful plastic cups…

The cups alone made for some fun play on a light table so I saved some and melted the rest. As you can see (in the photo below) each colorful cup is sitting on a melted down plastic cup (now what I call a colored disc)…

To melt the plastic cups, you first need to know that not all plastic clear cups are the same. Some do not melt and others do. “Life in the Nuthouse” talks a little about the difference between cups but I still ended up having to learn this the hard way…

I bought the red and blue cups (shown above) from Meijer and Garden Ridge and they melted fine. The purple and green cups (shown above) came from the dollar store and didn’t budge! So make sure you buy the right type of cups. Later I found a set of brightly colored cups from Meijer. They were in the birthday party supplies and they melted down perfectly…

To melt the cups, you need to preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit first. Then set the cups on a baking pan covered with some parchment paper and pop them in the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes (time depends on your oven and your cups)…

I used a spatula to flatten the cups or shape them a bit while they were still in the oven. The cups soften under the heat but as soon as they hit the cool air they harden and there is no changing them after that…

I did not cut the bottom out of the cups out like “Life in the Nuthouse” did because I wanted to see the full circle for the light table.  Here are a few of my finished colored discs on my homemade light table…

Not every disc turned out perfectly flat and round but it didn’t matter, they are all really cool to play with and very durable (I dropped a few and they didn’t break or crack)…

Check back to read my next blog post about how I made my own light table…

Here are some other light table toys you can read about…

Colored water bags on a light table from Kreative Resources

Lovely light boxes from Irresistible Ideas

Light table ideas from Strong Start

Exploration light table from Pink and Green Mama


    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I made one but I still have one in mind that I want to buy on my wishlist!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Yes- Thank you Caroline! You are right. The one’s with #6 on the bottom were the ones that worked!

      • Georgia says

        This is great information! I have been to every store in town. bought a set, and failed. I will now refine my search to #6.

        • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

          Ah, you poor thing! I had the same problem – definitely need #6 cups!

  1. Stacey says

    Those are fantastic! I would have never thought to melt colored cups. I’ll have to keep my eye out. I also don’t have a light table (and want one more each day) so I’m anxious to see how you made yours.

  2. says

    I love these. It just so happens to go with my post yesterday about Little Blue and Little Yellow on, so I posted your idea today. Hopefully I can find all the colored cups in our small town. My daughter will love a light table. Can’t wait to see how to make one.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I saw your wonderful post on Little Blue and Little Yellow and you are right, it does go well:)

  3. says

    I love our light table and sometimes struggle to find enough ideas to use it with. We have done the “normal” things like colored buttons, blocks, water colors, etc… but I love this idea. Not only do we get to do a DIY project, the finished product is interesting on it’s own.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      You melt it on a very low heat in your oven and it isn’t any different than melting chocolate or other items if you have the #6 cups. Like anything you bake – you keep an eye on it but really, they melt very easily and safely.

  4. bella01 says

    love this idea going to try it.. I did think of some other uses for them. You could put 2 wholes in them one at each end and the kids could use twisty ties (the ones you get on bread etc etc) and make light catchers for the window.. or if you were really clever you could put slits in them and they could make 3D art with them.

  5. bella01 says

    Or sorry was thinking about this while I was in bed. Maybe putting something inbetween 2 cups like glitter or if melted at a low temp a little picture or something (you get the idea) So when the child looks at the disks on the light table they see something in the disks. SO excited going to take the kids to walmart today to try it!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      Isn’t that the way it goes- I do my best thinking when I should be sleeping!!

  6. s says

    I have looked high and low for #6 plastic cups that are translucent (literally 12 different stores) and have not been successful. I did purchase some heavier feeling ones at the party store- but they did not melt flat. I tried an opaque #6 that melted awesome, but not worthy of a light table. The #5 from the dollar store never moved. Any suggestions as to where to find them? I tried dollar stores, 5 below, walmart, safeway, kmart, tuesday morning, ac moore, shoppers… Thanks for any input. Maybe with all the BPA stuff they just don’t make those kind of cups anymore :(

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I have found mine at Meijer in the party supply and a new store here called Garden Ridge. Do you have either of those stores near you?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      They are fun and simple:) Perhaps your husband will have some great ideas to help you whip up one!