Ten years ago, I did some practicum work in a local Reggio Emilia inspired preschool. It was such an inspiring place to learn and later work for a few summers. One classroom had a massive handmade light table that was just spectacular. The children loved using it in so many different ways with so many different materials. I did too!
I've had a few questions about our light table and what I would recommend. Here is what we have. We've had it over a year and it is holding up great. I think it is a great option for two to three children playing simultaneously. Eleanor (14 months) has been crawling and sitting on it since she was able to scoot. We have not had to change to bulb yet and we use it daily, even for hours at a time. It usually stays put in our play room or art room, but it easily fits under my coffee table or sofa.
This light box also seems like a great option, being smaller and thinner.
This light panel is also a great option being the smallest, lightest, and least expensive of the three. I've seen it or something similar to it on ever inspiring blogs such as sewliberated.typepad.com and playathomemom3.blogspot.com. It does appear to fit one child comfortably, maybe two at most?
I cannot find any examples of a similar light table that I had the privilege of seeing in the Reggio Emilia inspired preschool, but if you have some basic carpentry and electrical skills, you could totally make one. Anyone feeling up to an Ikea hack challenge???
And not that I need to explain myself, but I do recognize these things are expensive! Our light box was a gift from very generous grandparents, but we would have been comfortable purchasing this item for the following reasons. We do not buy our girls a lot of clothes. We get fabulous hand me downs and generous gifts. We do not purchase a ton of toys for the girls. We buyer fewer, open-ended toys. As I stay at home, we are not spending money on childcare or preschool. With that in mind, I do want to provide the girls with rich experiences that will give them opportunities to learn while playing. Is the light table/box a necessary item to ensure proper development of your child? Of course not, but it is oh so much fun!
Stay tuned for a post on some of the many materials you can use with the light table.