Why do you need a baby stargazing box?
When my twins were about two months old I was looking for ways to encourage tummy time and I found this excellent idea for a baby stargazing box: Candokiddo/baby stargazing box. I thought it was an amazing idea, so I made my own, but with several added features. This crafty little box was, hands down, THE most effective way to calm the babies down. Especially during the evening “witching hour,” the second I placed them in the light box they would go from fussy to absolutely peaceful and entranced. Even when they were in a good mood, the stargazing box provided an engaging place for them to relax and play.
Making it didn’t take as long as you would think, and it was ONE MILLION PERCENT worth the effort!
Note: this post was originally published on August 1, 2018, but has since been updated with new photos.
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To make your own baby stargazing box, you will need;
- a large cardboard box- preferably big enough for a baby to lie in the center and roll either way without bumping into the sides- I’d say a minimum of two feet across and a foot high. The depth doesn’t matter as much.
- A set of Christmas lights (NOT LED lights- they would be too bright)
- A hot glue gun
- Acrylic paint
- Aluminum foil
- Tape (I used duct tape and masking tape)
- Contact Paper
- Tissue paper
Step 1: Prepare your box for painting
Cut the flaps from the side and top of the front (I left the bottom flap there to create a larger place for the baby to lie). If the flaps on the back (what used to be the bottom of your box) aren’t attached, make sure to glue them down now. I used hot glue.
Step 2: Paint your box- inside and out
You can leave the back of the outside plain if you want, but I’d advise painting every other side. It just looks so much nicer! I used black paint so the lights would really stand out.
Step 3- Add the Christmas lights!
(Here’s a tip! Plug your lights in and test them to make sure they all work BEFORE you glue them everywhere for this project!)
Leave yourself about the last foot of the lights’ power cord so you can plug it in. Start at the outside bottom back corner of the box, and push the lights into the side so the pointy end of the light is now inside. Spread a little hot glue around the outside to keep it in place.
Continue around the back and sides of the box until you run out of lights. Hot glue each one as you go.
You could stop here and you would have a very cool light box that any baby would love! I added just a few more features to make it more visually interesting though. You can take or leave them as you wish. This is what it looks like, lit up, so far.
Step 4- Make the “stained glass” ceiling
This nifty little element lets light shine in through colored panels whenever there’s light outside the box. Babies like patterns of light and dark, and find them very interesting!
To make the “stained glass” panels;
Cut two pieces of contact paper that are smaller than the top of your box, and two more to match each of them. Put the contact paper on top of the box and lightly mark where the corners are.
Peel the backing off the contact paper and cover it with tissue paper in any pattern you want.
Next, place the other pieces of contact paper on top so it’s sealed on both sides.
Cut squares out of the top of the box, within the outline you drew.
Turn the box over and hot glue the tissue paper to the underside of the top so that it covers all the cutouts.
Repeat on the other side, and your stained glass windows will be complete!
Step 5- Make it shiny!
One of the simplest, but most fascinating elements I added was rectangles of aluminum foil (slightly crinkled), taped with masking tape to the top and sides of the box. The light bounces off the foil in ways that are very exciting to babies!
Step 6- Decorate the Floor
To make the box useful and exciting for tummy time, you can add some interesting visual elements to the bottom. I glued paper circles to the box itself, then covered it with a layer of contact paper and sealed the edges with duct tape. For more ideas and information about this method, check out my post Colorful Play Mats: a Fun Way to Encourage Tummy Time! This one was for a blue and white nursery with a whale theme, but you can customize it with anything you like!
Step 7- Add a place to hang toys
Your baby will most likely be spending some time hanging out in the stargazing box on their back. Newborns are content to just look at the lights, but after a few months they’ll start to be more interested in grabbing at toys, so having some hanging within reach extends the amount of time they’ll stay entertained.
Adding a spot to hang toys is easy, since most baby toys are made to hang from links or hooks.
First, cut a little “u” shape in the cardboard, on the top of the box, about an inch away from the front edge.
Take the tab created by the “u” and fold it under, then wrap duct tape around the whole thing a few times.
Hang up some toys (find out more about the links and cards I used in my post: Fort Magic Baby Gym)
and… your box is done!
(Although the floor is an exciting way to encourage tummy time with older babies, I would suggest lining the box with a soft blanket for newborns to make it more comfortable.)
My twins used their stargazing box regularly until they were about seven months old. I gave it away when they started moving around more and wanted an open space to play, but a slightly larger box might have stayed useful even longer.
I found that the lights had an amazingly powerful calming effect on them,
and stopped them from fussing even when they were at their crankiest (one of my twins regularly spent a good portion of the evening relaxing and looking at the lights). Seriously,
I cannot recommend this enough!
A note on safety: the Christmas lights I used had points. While my boys touched them all the time and they weren’t exactly sharp, I still make sure to watch carefully so they didn’t roll into them. The baby light box is definitely intended to be used with heavy supervision. As always, you as the parent are responsible for deciding what’s safe for your baby. Please see my disclaimer, here for more information.
Will you be making a stargazing box of your own? Are there any other features you might add? Leave a comment and let me know!
Make sure to check out my DIY Sensory Play Box for Babies! It is made in a similar way, and may have some features you could use in your stargazing box, if you feel like getting creative! Looking for other exciting baby play toys you can make yourself? Don’t miss my Colorful Play Mats. Baby Bottle Rainbow Rattles and Glitter Jars or Pantone:Colors song book hack! If you’re interested in other ways to soothe fussy babies, make sure to look into The Best Stories for Bedtime with your New Baby.
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