Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to Make a Light Box Tutorial and Light Box Activities

Here is a detailed explanation of how we made our light boxes along with activity suggestions.

Making a Light Box – Tutorial


  • clear bin with lid
  • masking tape and paper
  • white spray paint (the kind designed to adhere to plastic)
  • battery powered florescent lights
  • semi-transparent paper (like pattern paper or tracing paper)


  1. Purchase clear bin with lid. We chose fairly small bins because we wanted each child to be able to play on their own pulling the box into their lap if desired. If you want children to be able to work on larger projects or work in groups, choose a larger bin.
  2. Purchase white spray paint designed to adhere to plastic. We used two cans and multiple coats for two small bins. Be prepared to use several cans. The thicker the coat of paint the less light you'll have leaking through the sides. You might even try a metallic silver or mirror style paint to get maximum reflectiveness, but I can't swear that'll work since we didn't do it that way.
  3. Purchase battery powered florescent lights. We bought something similar to these. We started with two 6" lights per box, but ended up exchanging them for two 12" lights per box for the extra light.
  4. Spray paint the inside of the box. Use at least 2-3 coats letting the paint dry according to directions between coats.
  5. Use masking tape and paper to protect the areas of the lid you want paint free and then paint the inside of the lid. Again use at least 2-3 coats of paint.
  6. Cut semi-transparent paper to the size of your lid and tape over clear area to diffuse the light coming through giving a light table effect and functionality to the box. We used pattern paper I had on hand that I had purchased from a fabric store. You could also use tracing paper or possibly even white construction paper.
  7. Place battery powered florescent lights in box.

Using a Light Box – First Activities

So far, we have just played with translucent items on top of the box. Once they get bored with that, I'll start to introduce different art and sensory activities using the light box. So far we've used glass gems, mosaic shape tiles, translucent letters, and some translucent duplos on the box. The gems we sorted by color. The shapes can be sorted by color and shape. You can also use the shapes to make pictures. Two triangles make a diamond. Two squares make a rectangle. You can make a house or flower or anything else you can imagine. The translucent letters can just be sorted by color or letter or used to spell simple words. We didn't have enough translucent duplos to do much with, but the children thought they looked really cool on the light box.

Using a Light Box – Additional Activities

Here are some additional activities for the light box:

Art on the Light Box - Fingerpainting and Prints
Science on the Light Box - Oil and Colored Water
Science on the Light Box - Baking Soda and Colored Vinegar
Sand on the Light Box - Pre-Writing
Sand on the Light Box - Storytelling
More Light Box Activities - Sand Art and Silly Spheres


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