DIY light table for preschool

On my wish list is a brand new light table but I have a very long wish list and not much patience. After seeing so many wonderful light table ideas and reading a bunch of amazing ideas on Teach Preschool on Facebook about using a light table, I decided to try making my own…

This idea I am sharing with you is still a “work in progress” but I figured I would share the basics of the idea and let you use your own creativity to take it from there. During one of our Teach Preschool on Facebook discussions, Caroline mentioned that her friend made a light box out of a plastic container. Although Caroline and her friend described a different method for making the box – the idea of using a plastic container really seemed plausible to me…

The box

I had several containers with plastic lids but I went ahead and purchased this one. What I ultimately needed was a shallow plastic container with a clear lid. The lid needs to be as free from lines and print as possible so not to get in the way of the lighted area.

The light

To add light, I purchased some of these battery operated button lights. I found them at the dollar store for $1 each but some of them were so cheap that they didn’t work so I bought some button lights from Walmart for about $3.00 each plus the batteries to run them all. I chose to do the button lights so I didn’t have to mess with cords right now but this may not be the most economical way to go over the long term..

Holding in the light

Because my container was all clear, I decided that the light was not being funneled the right way – keep in mind that I am not a technical kind of girl so this is all a guess. I added a piece of black poster board inside my box to keep the light from escaping out from the sides of the box. I am thinking that I will paint the inside of my box but not until I am done experimenting….

Diffusing the light

Once I had the cardboard and lights set up inside my box, I put on the lid but the light was too bright. To look into the box was just like staring into a lightbulb.

So my husband suggested I try diffusing the light a bit. He hunted around and came back with some parchment paper…

So what you see below are four sheets of parchment paper laying across the top of the box. Two sheets on the the left and two sheets on the right. The two sheets on each side are stacked together so to thicken the “frost” for the light to go through. The sheets were pulled tight so they didn’t sag and the lid was placed back on top to hold them in place…

You will also notice that the number of lights in the container keeps changing. In the end, I liked having no less than three button lights but really the more you can have the better…

Here is the table with more than two lights…


So to recap, you will need – battery operated button lights, a shallow plastic container with lid, parchment paper for the top, and black paper for the sides of the container.  Then something to put on the light table for play and exploration.

Wy played with the light table for a bit but he didn’t like for me to turn off the kitchen lights.  So when he went off to do something else, I turned off the kitchen lights and played with my new DIY light table too!

Once I was done with everything, I simply opened up the lid and stored it all inside the plastic box (colorful cups, discs, lights, parchment paper) and put the box away for another day…

See the updated Light Table!


  1. Sharon - Cheeky Monkeys Childminding says

    Amazing and so simple – Thank you for the inspiration and I am sure the monkeys will be thanking you in the next few weeks for all their playtime

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      I found my plastic tote boxes at Meijer. I hope you are having better luck finding a box that works for you!

  2. says

    Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I linked to this post. We are trying our hand with a DIY light table at home. So far so good. Thank you for all of your creative posts.
    I had a hard time finding a lid with a clear top too, but I just attached my lights to the lid and then flipped the box upside down. Its a little extra hassle but it will have to do until I can find a clear lidded box.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      That works just as well Kristin! I had thought about doing that myself:)

  3. Robin Maas says

    I have wanted a light table for my preschool classroom but with budgets I couldn’t justify one. I am going to purchase these materials and make it over Christmas break! I love the fact you can store all of the materials inside and have ONE item to keep track of/store! Thank you for the great idea.