LED light panels, light boxes and light tables are becoming more commercially available. Once seen in many preschool settings adorned with X-rays of tibias and strange specimen blocks, they are making their way into our homes. I’m referring to those panels or tables that are plugged into the wall and light up. They go hand in hand with transparent items like blocks, paddles, numbers and counters.
These light panels have certainly populated the market and some even offer the latest specs like flash and strobe functions. I’m sure they could easily serve as a dance floor to an enthusiastic child. But are they worth the investment? At present, light panels start from around $150 and can retail up to $1000 depending on their size and specifications.
Let’s look at the benefits: Light boxes and panels certainly encourage open-ended play and are a fantastic tool for enhancing sensory exploration. For some young people, bright surfaces serve to engage and maintain attention. For a child with visual impairment, light panels may open up their world. Resources paired with LED lights encourage scientific enquiry and become a novel platform for building fine motor skills. Larger light panels are great for group work and sharing materials with peers.
So what if after investing in an A3 light box, you eagerly set it up only to find it’s you trying to balance 12 transparent cubes. Your child shows a fleeting interest. Pretty disappointing!
I think it’s important that families feel confident and informed when purchasing educational resources. As an occupational therapist I would often generate discussion with families unsure about big purchases. For example, buying a weighted blanket for their child. I would ask them about their child’s sensory preferences in daily life. Does she enjoy firm pressure usually? What about bed sheets? Does he like being tucked in tightly? So when it comes to a light panel, families can also ponder how their child responds to light stimulus in other activities. Perhaps they love torches. Or maybe they squint and are light sensitive.
The good news is that you can test run a light panel at the fraction of the cost of a commercial one. I put one together in a matter of minutes! This is all you need:
– clear Tupperware container (with lid)
– battery operated LED flip switch (around $4 from Bunnings)
-sheet of baking paper (enough to cover one side of lid)
-alfoil (enough to line inside of container)
-and resources! Consider transparent counters, neon putty, DIY cellophane shapes
Method: Line the inside of the lid with a single sheet of baking paper. We used tape to stick the sides down. Next, line the inside of the container with alfoil. This is a very kid-friendly task! Leave a bit of foil overhang so it stays securely. Pop the flip switch inside the centre of the container, turn on and secure lid down. Done and ready to use!
Place flip switch inside container
Done! Transparent counters or chips can be found in store.
We were doing some phonic practice and letter recognition here. I drew an E outline on the baking paper and stuck it under the lid. We had fun stretching neon putty and sticking it on our E.
If you decide to make your own light panel, I’d love to see some pictures! Send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you are interested in learning more about light panels and resources available in store, you can find out more here.
Have a great week!
Ellena, OT and owner of Kids Develop Store