With my toddlers showing an interest in colors, light and shapes I set about creating a DIY light table using our Ikea Flisat table. Just $30 later and they had an awesome light table which instantly captured their imaginations. I wanted to share my tips on how to make a DIY light table so you can get started on your own!
Materials required for this DIY Light Table Hack
This DIY light table Ikea hack is based on the Ikea Flisat Table. To transform a Flisat into a DIY light table you will need:
- Ikea Flisat Table: the Ikea Flisat table is one of the most versatile products you can invest in for the playroom. The Flisat is available in Ikea stores although, at the moment, it can be difficult to find stock. While it is a little more expensive, you can find the Flisat for sale on Amazon. It’s a great option if you can’t make it to a store or it’s out of stock – check prices now!
- Ikea Trofast bins and lids: I have two 16.5 x 11.75 x 4 inch bins and four 7.75 x 11.75 x 4 inch bins which we switch out depending on the type of play. I like to transform both of my 16.5 x 11.75 x 4 inch bins (the ones I’m using in the pic above) into light trays and place the Ikea Trofast bin lids on top. If you don’t have Trofast bin lids there are two great alternatives:
- Frosted lids: frosted lids are available on Etsy or you can have a piece cut to size in a home ware store. Some people prefer this option as the Trofast bins have a hole in the middle whereas you can avoid this with a frosted lid. A 27 7/16 x 17 9/16 will fit the space taken by the two Flisat table lids. If it comes with an adhesive film then leave it on – this works as frosting for the light table. Otherwise you will need to spray some frosted spray paint on both sides of the sheet to give a light table effect – check prices on Etsy!
- Two bins: if you have a deeper 9 inch bin (the 16.5 x 11.75 x 9 inch bin in this case) then you can place the lights in the deeper bin and then place the shallower 4 inch bin on top to do light table activities.
- LED strip lights: if you have a spare bin then a set of remote controlled LED strip lights are my favorite light source for the light table. Make sure to choose a set which can be powered using a USB battery bank (something like this set) – this means you don’t have to worry about cables or being close to a power source.
- LED puck lights: if you don’t want to dedicate a Trofast bin to the light table then remote controlled LED puck lights are a fantastic solution. You can simply buy a set of remote controlled LED puck lights like these and pop them into the Flisat bin when you want to use it as a light table. They work great and the remote control allows you to easily change the colors for the kids –this set works great in the light table.
- Light Table Accessories: there are so many awesome light table accessories which our kids love. Their favorite accessory is magnetic tiles (we have a Magna-Tiles set and a PicassoTiles set which they adore). These rainbow blocks are a close second and get hours and hours of play on and off the light table. I also love the learning opportunities this translucent alphabet set offers and these paddles are great for exploring color mixing.
Why make a DIY Light table?
Light tables are incredibly fun for young kids and are an excellent tool for sensory play. They are inviting and engaging and help kids to understand light, color mixing, shapes and sorting. We explored three options before deciding on our DIY light table:
- Light table: a stand alone light table like this. It can be an expensive purchase and you need to have the space for a dedicated light table.
- Light panel: a light panel is a light weight light and slim panel which sits atop a table like this one or a box type panel like this. Light panels are compact and are a great alternative to a full sized light table. They can be expensive but a great option if you want a separate panel and prefer not to DIY.
- DIY light table: a DIY light table is fantastic if you already have a table you can repurpose. It saves space and usally works out much less expensive – we decided to go with a DIY light table and used the money we saved to invest in some open ended light table accessories for the playroom!
How To Make a DIY Light Table
This DIY light table is extremely easy to make and only requires a few parts to assemble. As I mentioned, you can use LED strip lights or LED puck lights depending on whether you have a Trofast bin to dedicate to the light table.
DIY Light Table Ikea hack: whichever light source you choose, make sure that you opt for remote controlled lights! This way you won’t have to lift the Trofast lid every time you want to turn on and off or change color – it’s so much more convenient.
- Option 1: LED strip lights – if you have a spare Trofast bin then LED puck lights can be used to fantastic effect. It requires sticking a strip around the inside of the Trofast bin so you’ll probably want to keep it exclusively for light table play.
- Option 2: LED puck lights – LED puck lights are amazing if you want to take the lights in and out of the Trofast bin when you are using it for light table play.
LED strip lights
Simply stick the LED strip lights around the inside of the Trofast bin – I opted for this set which are set on an adhesive strip so I just cut the strip to length, peeled off the tape backing and stuck to my bin.
The LED strip can be powered either using a power bank like this model or via a mains cable – I prefer the power bank option as you don’t have to run a wire out of or through the bottom of the Flisat bin or worry about cables or power supply. A good option for a reliable power bank is this one from Anker which we use and will power the strip for days! We keep one of our spare Trofast bins set up like this permanently and set it up as an invitation to play on days we use the light table.
LED Puck lights
I’m also a fan of LED puck lights and we keep a set to pop into our second bin. The LED Puck can be popped in and out of the bin as necessary – we don’t have a second Trofast bin to spare at the moment so I love being able to create a double light table without having to dedicate another tray!
I use a cheap set of remote controlled LED puck lights like these. They work great and the remote control allows you to easily change the colors for the kids. Make sure you have some AAA batteries to power the LED puck lights!
DIY Light Table Ikea Hack: I prefer the light table effect of the strip light for some of our light table set ups – I find it works better when we’re using the entire surface for something like Magnatiles. The spot effect of the LED puck lights makes them great for exploring color mixing.
Ideas for using the Light Table with Toddlers
Check out our best light table accessories and activities for more light table ideas!
1 | Creative Play
There are some great light table accessories that can be used for creative play:
- Magnetic Tiles: we have a Magna-Tiles set and a PicassoTiles set which work great for both general play and light table play
- Rainbow blocks: these rainbow blocks get hours and hours of play on and off the light table.
2 | Color Mixing
A light table offers a great opportunity to explore colors and introduce the concept of color mixing to create different colors:
- Color paddles: these color paddles are great for exploring color mixing
- LED lights: both the LED light sets are color changing and so can be incorporated into the concept of color mixing by changing the light colors.
3 | Bug Tray
A light table is also a wonderful way to explore bugs and insects in close detail.
- Life Cycle kits: we love the Safari Life Cycle kits which illustrate the transformation of insects and animals. We have the frog, ant and butterfly sets along with the honey bee set we are using here.
4 | Color Identification
For younger kids, a light table can help assist with color identification.
5 | Letter Recognition
We love using the light table to add a new perspective to letter recognition and matching:
- Light table alphabet: we use this translucent alphabet set with our light table.
The two Trofast bin light table (a shallow tray on top of a deeper tray) is perfect for practicing letter tracing in sand.
6 | Shape recognition
Similar to our alphabet set for letter recognition, we love using the light table to add a new perspective to shape recognition:
- Rainbow blocks: these rainbow blocks are great for introducting the basic shapes
- Geometric shapes: this geometric shape set is fantastic for introducing 3D shapes and will carry through for years as kids begin to explore volumes and geometry.
- Ikea Flisat table
- 2 x Trofast bins (16.5x 11.75 x 4")
- 2 x Trofast bin lids (15.75x11")
- LED strip lights
- Use LED strip lights if you have a Trofast bin to spare. Cut strip to size and stick to inside of Trofast bin.
- If you want to use the Trofast bin for other purposes as well as a light table use LED puck lights, These can be popped in and out of the bin when you want to use the table as a light table.
- Pop the lids on the Trofast bin and turn on the LED lights!
- Set up with light table accessories and invite your kids to play
If you don't have a Trofast bin lid or prefer a completely flat surface (the Trofast bin lid has a hole in the middle) you can have an acrylic sheet cut to table top size at a DIY store. The protective sticker adds to the frosted light table effect!
Make sure your lights can be controlled via a remote! My kids love changing the light colors frequently and it would not be fun to have to remove their light table accessories and lift the lid every time they requested a light change!
Remember the power source: choose a LED strip lighting set that can be powered by USB - this way you don't have to worry about cables or being close to a power outlet. Most LED puck lights use regular AAA batteries.