There are a few purchasing options, but neither seemed to work for us. Most light panels are pretty small for 3 children to use at the same time... and large light tables are extraordinarily expensive, like in the $500 range! So, we decided to turn our train table into a light table!
Following Play at Home Mom's tutorial, we were able to put one together ourselves pretty easily. We even lucked out that Jackson already had the same train table. And to think, I had actually been considering getting rid of the thing since it's so big and often just becomes a dumping ground for toys. I'm glad I held on to it!
Second only to the lights, the plexiglass used in the light table is very important. I contacted several local plastic/glass companies here in Nashville to get quotes for white plexiglass cut to the size I needed. I ended up going with Regal Plastic. They had what I was looking for in stock and were very friendly to work with, they even carried the plexiglass out to the car for me when I came to pick it up since I had all 3 kiddos in the car - talk about service! :) What I got, specifically, was a piece of #2447 white plexiglass in 3/16" thickness. This color allows plenty of light to come through and is thick enough to be very durable. A lot of companies only had #7328 white in stock, but I did my research and #2447 is the better choice for a light table. The plexiglass cost me $85 including having it cut to the custom size I needed, before tax.
For my light fixtures, I bought four 18" GE fluorescent lights. I got the plug-in variety because I am not handy enough electrically to hard-wire them. I also purchased a surge protector so I could plug all the light fixtures into that, so I would only have one plug to plug into the wall instead of four. I laid them all on top of a piece of plywood that I had cut to size (my train table has little side cubbies built in, so I was able to play my plywood across those).
Here is a picture of what our set-up looks like underneath the plexiglass.
And here is the train table with our cut-to-size plexiglass laid on top. The table can also still be used as a train table, we simply lay the wooden train table top right back on top of the plexiglass.
We did follow Play at Home Mom's advice, and swapped out the standard fluorescent light bulbs that came with the fixtures, with new daylight light bulbs. I wasn't sure how big of a difference it would make or if it would be worth the extra money, but it really was worth it! The standard bulbs that come with the fixtures are no where near as bright and have more of a yellow tinge to them.
This is a picture our light table with the standard bulbs.
And here our light table with the daylight bulbs. As you can see, it is much brighter and whiter and no longer yellowy. The extra bulbs were only about $28 total.
The kids LOVE playing at the light table and it holds their attention for quite a while. So far we've played with feathers, translucent gems and little brightly colored translucent cups for stacking/building/dumping/pouring. The possibilities are endless. Eventually I'd like to get some translucent blocks, letters, shapes, etc. I have some water beads that I've been saving and those will be fun to explore in a bin on top of the table as well. I'm very excited for this to be a part of our playroom!
If you're don't have a train table to start with, you can probably score a pretty cheap one on Craigslist, or at a yard sale or consignment sale. Or if you're really handy you might be able to build a table to house the plexiglass yourself? If you're not a DIY'er, don't fret... this light panel from Constructive Playthings is a pretty good deal and would be a good start at introducing your child to playing with light. Or you could even look on Craigslist for an old x-ray viewing box, which would work as a light box! Lots of options and ideas for playing with light. Pin It