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Sensory Play tables are awesome. Light tables are awesome. But both of them together? That’s just crazy!
I’ve actually been planning this table for years, but it came out so much better than I ever imagined! I’ve read a million DIY light table tutorials (I’d like to credit whoever originally came up with these container-style light tables but it’s impossible to tell where it started!). I had always planned to use Christmas lights that would have to be plugged in, but instead I found a battery operated solution that eliminates the need for cords AND allows a toddler to use the table themselves! It also means that you can use this table anywhere in the house- or even outside- without having to keep it near an outlet. It can be placed in the center of the floor for four children to use or tucked in a dark corner.
This bin is just amazing self-contained fun! The light table can be used on it’s own, or the sensory bin can be attached to the top. Having light shining up from beneath sensory materials adds a completely new element to the play! Velcro fasteners make it quick and easy to go back and forth between the two.
Best of all, this whole contraption was incredibly easy to put together and only cost about $35! I am completely thrilled with the way it came out. It works perfectly, and has already been a huge hit!
To make an Easy DIY 2-in-1 Light Table and Sensory Bin, you will need:
-Two large, clear plastic tote bins with lids. The ones I used were from Target and were 6.0 inches high x 16.25 inches wide x 23.0 inches long (This one, Here)
-A battery operated LED light with a remote control switch. I used this one from Target. Here is something similar on Amazon, except you get four light bars instead of two. Make sure you get the necessary batteries as well.
Adhesive Velcro tape (I got white so it would be less noticeable)
The lights I got came with adhesive mounting squares. If yours didn’t, you will need about five of those as well.
To make your Easy DIY 2-in-1 light box with sensory bin;
First, spray the inside of the box with the frosted glass spray paint. Do as many coats as possible.
I wanted to see how it would look if I sprayed the sides of the box with metallic gold paint- so the light wouldn’t shine through the sides and would reflect more to the top. It ended up making the light more golden. I’ll do a side by side comparison at the end. If you want to go that route, you can trace the bottom of the box on a piece of cardboard and cut it out;
Then put the cardboard in the bottom (to protect it from being sprayed) and paint the sides with metallic gold spray paint;
Let your box dry, preferably for at least 24 hours since you’ll be sticking things to the paint.
Next, make sure your lights have batteries in them and that they turn on and work correctly. If you’re using the same ones I did, you have to toggle the little switch at the top to put it in remote control mode.
Apply the double sided adhesive to the back of the light bars and stick them to the shorter sides of your box.
I tried placing them on the lid first and it looked terrible! It was just four dots of light shining up! Putting them on the sides allows the light to glow evenly across the top.
Then turn the whole box upside down and snap it onto the lid. Use a double sided adhesive square to stick the switch to the outside. Turn it on and see your box glow!
Note- I didn’t do anything to secure the box to the lid other than snapping it together, so I can access the lights in the future to change batteries. If you’re worried about your toddler getting into it you could add some glue or duct tape to secure the lid more permanently.
Here is a side by side comparison of the regular box and the gold one;
I think the gold looks kind of pretty and feminine, but it makes the light more yellowish, so it depends on what look you’re going for. The light table part of your project is done, and if you don’t want a sensory bin you can stop right here!
I couldn’t resist trying out the light table with my new Magformers set. To be honest, though, it’s not great for this purpose because they made the sides of most of the pieces two different colors, so when the light shines through them they look brown.
A better choice for light table play is Shape Mags, which are cheaper than magnatiles, amazing quality with strong magnets, and look stunning when light shines through them!
The last step is adding the sensory bin to the light box. First, cut four pieces of Velcro, and stick the soft side on each corner of the top of your light table. Then stick the harder side on the bottom of the other bin, so you can place it on top and the Velcro will hold it in place!
And that’s it! Since the sensory bin contains your materials, it’s awesome for all sorts of sensory play. We tried it out with some colored rice left over from my Baby Bottle Rainbow Rattles.
This would also be an awesome way to play with colored water, glass gems, water beads, or any other translucent sensory material. The best part is, because of the Velcro, it’s easy to remove the sensory bin so you can have the light table alone for activities where the bin would get in the way.
If you want more ideas about how to use a light table, you can find tons of great stuff at The Ultimate Light Table Guide on Pinterest!
I turned my 2-in-1 light table and sensory bin into a 3-in-1 activity center by creating a sweet little rainbow train set that Velcro’s to the top! Find out how to make your own here; DIY Rainbow Train Set for Toddlers!
A final tip! We have a wonderful, sunny playroom- but it can make the effects of a light table kind of disappointing- so I stashed ours in our Melissa and Doug Fire Truck fort- It’s the perfect size and the dark little corner makes the colors shine brighter!
What would you use a combined light table and sensory box for? Let me know in the comments!
If you want an amazing sensory play table for your outdoor play area as well, don’t miss this incredible DIY Mud Kitchen from a Firewood Rack!
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