What is a light table and why do you need one?

Sabrina Garibian

posted in Products

Remember how you had no idea what Magna-Tiles were a few years ago and then poof! they showed up everywhere, including your child’s holiday wish list?

Expect the same thing to happen with light tables and panels. Within the next year light tables will be all the rage — get in early and get one now.

what is a light table and why do you need one

What is a light table? It’s so simple, really. Light tables are basically a table with a panel that lights up. It makes doing science experiments and art projects infinitely more fun and is a great toy to spark imagination. We use ours mostly for tracing projects, playing with translucent blocks or magnetic tiles, and color experiments.

You will often see them at children’s museums, preschools, and science museums. There is a whole range of pricing on light tables. You can spend very little to a lot.

Here are my picks for each price range:

Cheapest: Crayola Trolls Light-Up Tracing Pad (Amazon, $19.95)

light up tracing pad

This tracing pad is battery-operated and not as bright as one that might plug in. It works great for tracing and okay for magnetic tiles.

Moderate price: Excellerations LED Light & Bright Panel (Amazon, $89.99)

excellerations led light table

This is the perfect size light table for children. It is pricy but it uses electricity and the panel is bright. Younger children can use this, but it is also a great tabletop light panel for older kids who might want to work on their drawing skills.

Fancy pants: Childcraft Mini Light Table (Amazon, $256.99)

childcraft light table

If you have very few toys and are in the mood for a splurge, this is the best light table for the preschool-aged crowd. Little ones can stand at the table to play, and as they grow they can practice tracing and color mixing too.

Why do you need a light table? Light tables help spark imagination. While I thought my children would only use our specific light table accessories to play with it, they have proved me wrong. They play most games at the light table and do most art projects there. Why? Because it’s fun!

Now that you know what a light table is, let’s talk about what products you can have available to enhance the experience. It is a given that plain old printer paper will be a big hit. I have a few other items we love to use with our light table:

1. ALEX Toys tracing paper (Amazon, $8.96)

tracing paper

This is self-explanatory and lots of fun with a light table.

2. Magna-Tiles 32 piece set (Amazon, $49.99)


Building Magna-Tile structures on a light table is way more fun than on the floor. The translucent tiles seem to glow.

3. Animal X-Ray Set (Amazon, $22.34)

animal x rays

Explore science with the light table with this animal x-ray set.

4. Translucent Color Counting Chips, set of 250 (Amazon, $5.60)

translucent counting chips

Practice addition, color mixing, and design with these translucent color counting chips.

5. Color Paddles, set of 18 (Amazon, $6.99)

color paddles

This is such a simple toy, but my kids are obsessed. Use a light table to enhance the color mixing process.

Instead of grabbing the latest “it” toy that your child will play with for five minutes and then discard in the corner of the playroom, invest in something that will bring enjoyment to your children for years. A light table or panel is the way to go.

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