Where do you expect to find a black light? You probably think of night clubs, parties… maybe crime dramas or Hot Topic… but an elementary classroom? Or a play room? Really?
Yes! I’ve personally had a black light center in my kindergarten/first grade class for a few years now and it has been amazing! Besides just the “coolness” factor, having a black light in the class (or in your home!) actually does get kids excited about learning!
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Why does using a black light for learning work?
Just like light tables (another favorite of mine!) black lights give kids a whole new perspective on familiar objects. It makes things look different, and because it’s different they’re interested, and because they’re interested, they focus and learn. The more fun kids are having, the more likely they are to remember what they’re working on!
What do you need?
To start, just a black light! The one I used for these photos is amazing. It was the cheapest blacklight I can find and it’s LED, which means it’s small and light, but incredibly bright (and no worrying about breaking glass!). I’ve even dropped it without any issues. You can get one here:
Set it up in a darkish corner of the room, ideally mounted on the wall with some sort of table below it. I used a little plastic set of drawers that was big enough that the students could use the top as a work surface. Ideally, you should have some storage nearby for your glow in the dark supplies and accessories.
Once you’re set up, you can start to work black light activities into your daily rotation, and I’m sure you’ll start to see why they make learning so much fun!
Reason #1- Blacklights make worksheets awesome!
Even the simplest or most boring worksheet looks awesome under a black light because it glows!!! Many brands of highlighters will glow, but these neon sharpies are totally the best! Although any type of worksheet will do, I’ve found that the biggest hit are worksheets where the kids are searching for something and coloring it in, because what they color, pops! I’ve found these worksheets from “The Little Mom Aid” on Teachers Pay Teachers that are totally perfect for a black light center in pre-K or Kindergarten;
How exciting are those glowing letters and numbers? Your kids will totally go crazy for them, and again, the way they glow forces your kiddos to focus their attention so they’ll be learning more effectively, too! I can tell you from experience that the black light center was always where the best work got done (especially if you’re clear that goofing around means they will be asked to leave- they want to be there so badly that they will stay on task!).
Reason #2- Black lights make working with manipulatives awesome!
There are so many options for manipulatives you can use under a black light! Anything neon or glow in the dark will end up looking really exciting. A few ideas;
-Use this puffy glow-in-the-dark fabric paint to write letters, numbers, sight words, or anything else your kids are working on. Have them trace with their fingers, use them as flash cards, play memory, do crayon rubbings, rewrite them, etc!
Reason #3- Black Lights Make Reading Awesome!
You could read anything under a black light and it would be awesome, but I have something even better- a printable easy color-and-read book, written just for the black light! And it’s free for anyone that subscribes to my email list! In the story, Firefly is sad because she can’t glow, even though everything around her seems to be glowing just fine.. but don’t worry! There’s a happy ending. Snag your copy here.
Reason #4- Black lights make sensory play awesome!
Kids love black lights and they love sensory play, so combining them is a guaranteed hit!
This setup is just a little water with glow in the dark paint and some aliens, staying safe from the bugs on their little platform. (I got the aliens from Oriental Trading years ago, and unfortunately they appear to be discontinued but here’s a link to some glowing dinosaurs that would work as well!)
There are so many other great glow-in-the-dark sensory play ideas out there! Here are some of my favorites to get you started!
Reason #5- Black lights make STEM activities awesome!
My absolute favorite black light purchase was this set of glow-in-the-dark building bricks! (they’re off-brand but compatible with Lego. They work really well and were a great value for the price!) What can’t you do with them? I especially like how the set is only basic shapes, no people or accessories, so the kids have to create everything they want to play with. They came up with a beautifully simple way of making little animals for their world! (Some of the aliens did creep their way in, but it’s okay)
Then the animals and aliens checked out our DIY mirror box (find out how to make one with this post)
And remember that glowing water? We did a very simple STEM challenge- make the aliens a boat out of tinfoil so they can float around and escape the bugs! It was harder than it looked!
A few other ideas to check out;
To summarize: black lights make learning awesome!
Some of my coworkers might have thought I was a little crazy when I installed the black light in my classroom, but I have to say, I enjoy being “the cool teacher” whose kids get to do things just a little differently! Having the black light is a huge hit, and a lot of really focused learning- and really cool play- happen in that center!
Will you be installing a black light in your classroom/learning space? What activities would you use it for? Leave a comment and let me know!
If you’re the kind of teacher who likes going above and beyond to really get your kids engaged in learning, then you will love my Spy Mystery/Treasure Hunt!
For more awesome ways to change how kids see the world, check out our EASY DIY 2-in-1 Light Table and Sensory Bin! and Hands-on Optical Illusion Activities, Inspired by “Walter Wick’s Optical Tricks!”
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