DIY: Making a mini-light box for preschool

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on June 19, 2011

in Light Table, Light Table, Mini-Light Box

Once I start trying to figure out an idea, I tend to go overboard so I hope I am not driving everyone crazy with all the light box posts. I have one more very simple light box idea to share and I think I will have given you all my best efforts of creating a DIY light box…

While making my own light box which you can see here and here, I discovered that I could make a mini-light box that was fairly simple and fun. For the mini-light box you need to purchase an aluminum foil roasting or cake pan with a lid….

The foil pan is perfect because it reflects light and it is not see through. The lid needs some frosting so I used my Plastic Primer and Frost Paint inside the lid to frost it up!

I put two layers of frost paint and still think I may go back and add one more layer but the frost paint does help to diffuse the light. After all the paint dried, I set my battery operated fluorescent light from Walmart inside the foil pan put the lid back on top…

And I had a DIY mini-light table. The only problem I still feel like I need to work on is the frosting of the lids. It seems that I can’t get this just exactly right but until I can purchase a real light table some day, this mini-light box and my large light box seem to do the trick. I made several of the minis…

I have also come to the realization that the florescent light shows up brighter than the button lights but can’t decide which I like better for sure. Keep in mind that since the mini is only made of an aluminum foil pan and thin plastic lid, it isn’t as durable as the large light box.Here is the large light box in case you haven’t seen it yet…

That really is it for the light boxes but I still want to show you a few activities you can use with the light box next week!

See the light box made by Child Central Station too! As I have been working on mine, Amy has been giving me pointers along the way which as been very helpful. Now she has been able to share her light box on her blog so take a look!

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1 Ameera June 19, 2011 at 11:10 am

Youre a light table making factory you should ship me some LOL this is a much easier idea for me personally and will easily impress my boys for a long time and keep them busy..I can actually attempt this one, and have to find some frosting but thanks Deborah this works much easier in my homeschool

2 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 19, 2011 at 11:16 am

It is a nice, frugal way to explore the idea:) I am glad you like it!

3 Sharon June 19, 2011 at 11:52 am

Deborah, I made one last summer using a glass coffee table I found on Craigslist. I just mounted lights underneath. The glass was already frosted. The light shone down too much so I taped foil underneath to reflect the light up – eventually I will do something more permanent but it worked fine.

I am looking forward to your ideas of what to do. I don’t think I am that creative with it yet. Two things I did do which were fun are I put a glass bowl of tadpoles on it so they kids could see them swimming around backlit. I also sprayed the top lightly with water and put red worms on it so the kids could see them crawling around and the paths they made.

4 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 19, 2011 at 11:54 am

I hadn’t thought of either one of those ideas! I love it!

5 Leeanne A June 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm

You go girl!! LOVE it!
It’s fun to get carried away sometimes. I think you have another segment for the news!

6 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I have enough for a book:) LOL!

7 Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree June 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Love all your light table ideas! You have really made them doable and no one has an excuse not to have one! Yay!

8 Rachelle | TinkerLab June 20, 2011 at 10:33 pm

You are BRILLIANT! We lost our light table in our last move and the cost of getting a new one is so prohibitive. This is not only quick and easy, but economical!

9 Lynn June 23, 2011 at 9:58 am

Walmart carries some small shoe boxes with clear lids to make the minis more durable. I’m also thinking about some old Tupperware I have because the lids are already frosted. Hmmm I can see me hitting more garage sales and thrift stores! I wish I had this idea the last 3 years when I didn’t have the money to buy a light table. What did you make those disks out of ? Keep the great ideas coming!

10 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 23, 2011 at 11:44 am

I made them from plastic cups – they were easy and no smelly mess – see this post! http://www.teachpreschool.org/2011/06/diy-colorful-discs-for-the-light-table-in-preschool/

You are on the right track with making your light table! Good luck!

11 Saima ahmed August 15, 2011 at 11:40 am

I run a home daycare and have been wanting to buy or make a light table… You are a genius! I am totally doing this over the weekend!!! Thanks!

12 Saima ahmed August 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Ok so I just made mine! Made a few changes: I got a container with a white lid. I used a spray adhesive and covered the sides and the bottom of the lid with aluminum foil. Then I used Velcro to secure the lights to the lid. Whole job took 35 mins and was less that $30!

13 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 17, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Awesome! Way to go and innovate!! Tell me how it is working once you try it out!

14 Mumsy September 9, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Wanted to let you know. Following your directions, and using an under the bed ( I think 35 qt. container) I made a light box for our program. I didn’t go with the battery operated lights though. I purchased 17 watt florescent plug in lights at wal-mart. I had planned on having my husband drill a hole for the cord ( the lights connect to each other so only one cord is needed ), but discovered that with the type of box I had the cord could just come out near the handle and doesn’t get pinched, they are the box with the locking handles, that roll up over the handle to lock the lid in place, so no dealing with batteries:). It was a huge hit today, with the large glass “pebbles” for floral arrangements, purchased at a dollar store, again :) i was not so lucky with the cups. There were no translucent cups to be had :( anywhere. I had some from Costco left over from Christmas, but alas they were only in red and green, but worse they were high quality solo. No melting at 200 degrees had to go up to 300* which produced an odor. Otherwise great idea, and great site. Perhaps one day I’ll find some sexy carpenter guy to build me a wooden light box.

15 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. September 10, 2011 at 12:04 am

I love it Mumsy! Let me know when you get that wooden light table built! I wonder if my husband would do that for me? Sorry about the cups not working out – they really are not that easy to find in the #6′s so I am finding out. We got ours at Garden Ridge and Meijer in the #6 and those work the best and no odor when melting!! I am thinking of switching from a battery light to a corded light too – still haven’t decided yet:)

16 Kristin @ Preschool Universe September 21, 2011 at 12:09 am

I’m so glad you showed us how to make these! My 3 year old saw one at a children’s museum and didn’t want to leave it, but I was saddened to come home and find out they cost $300 :0

17 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. September 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm

That is a little too pricey!!

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