Light Panel Early Learning Bucket

With a multi-age group in a licensed family childcare home it can be difficult to balance the needs of all the children. Nap time is especially challenging when I need to be able to supervise the youngest children napping as well as the older ones who do not. It can be tricky to find quiet activities for the older preschoolers that will keep them engaged without disturbing the little ones who need to sleep.

In my current group, the older three and four year old children seem content to independently look at books or do puzzles over and over again during quiet time. However, I was beginning to feel like maybe I should introduce some other activities to expand their learning opportunities. I have a small light panel that rarely gets used because it is too small for group activities and too delicate for toddler use. The older children seemed interested in using it but I didn’t have many accessories available to use with the light panel.

I received the Light Panel Early Learning Bucket from Quality Classrooms to provide some additional resources.  Personally, I feel the ‘bucket’ is a little difficult to store – square or rectangular containers are easier to fit efficiently on shelves.  I like that the individually packaged materials in the bucket make it convenient to select which items we want to use without having to dig through all the little pieces.

At first, the children simply tried to fit as many items as possible on the light panel but didn’t seem to have any other goal.

Eventually, they started to sort the pieces by shape and colour and then use them to make pictures.

This one is a ‘car’.

With a little guidance they practiced some numeracy skills.

This light panel is too small to accommodate all the letters so the children couldn’t use it to arrange them all alphabetically.  Instead, we’ve been working on recognizing and matching the letters in printed words.

This has proved to be a little frustrating when they want to try spelling words that have more than one of any letter as the set contains only one of each.  I think it would be nice to have smaller letters and more of them.

Some of the literacy and numeracy activities we’ve tried to do require more assistance than they or I would like – we do value independence.  These children much prefer using the shapes to create pictures and patterns which is a wonderful child-led activity.  As an additional quiet time activity the light panel and accessories have offered an interesting variation but will never replace the books and puzzles that they love so much.

Written by Cheryl, an experienced ECE II who runs her own daycare (Cheryl’s Child Care).

Geoboard Light Table Play

So you may expect the following information to show a geoboard being used in the traditional way with elastic bands. Apparently that was not as appealing to my Grade 2 daughter as these beautiful counters and beads:

 I did leave out rubber bands but they were ignored.

Instead, the counters and beads seemed to be more attractive.

The counters are part of this Manipulative Kit for Light Table:

and the beads are from this Giant Transparent Beads kit.

The counters look amazing:

These geoboards are transparent and can be purchased at Quality Classrooms here and are perfect for the light table. They also come in 5 x 5 and 11 x 11 and a variety of colours.

Maybe next time we will use them for what they have been designed for!

Or maybe we will just find another awesome use.

Who knew geoboards could look so great!

Why Light Play?

Light tables and light play ideas are as popular as ever! With great new products and ideas the options are endless. I have been asked what to do with the light table or panel and my answer is always “The options are endless!”

Light tables/panels/pads can be used:

  • to explore materials for opacity, transparency, translucency (science)
  • to add an extra sensory experience (make regular activities that little bit brighter)
  • to enhance art (painting, drawing, tracing, printing, colour mixing)
  • to enhance language activities (using letters to make cvc words, practice sight words, recognize names)
  • to enhance math activities (sorting, counting, shape exploration)
  • exploring and observing anything (science experiments, nature, mirrors)

We got the opportunity to play with this great Ultra Bright LED Light Panel from Quality Classrooms. It is beautifully bright without being too much. Lightweight and portable means you can quickly set it up anywhere in the classroom. If you don’t want to invest in a large light table, a light panel or pad is a great option. It measures 17″ X 24″ which is a good size for little hands and a bevelled edge makes the light seem almost magical.

I set out Light Table Numbers and gems from the Manipulative Kit for the Light Table and let Daisy play.

She organized the numbers in order and sorted the gems by colour.

Rose was also excited to play!

She was more content to enjoy the feel of the gems and the colour, letting them slip through her fingers and drop gently onto the light panel.

Remembering to use the light table for variety of structured and unstructured activities is important. It never fails to add to the activity.

Here are some past activities where the light table has added dimensions:

Light table colour bags to practice letter formation.

Sorting fruit by colour and working on that pincer grip.

Counting with transparent chips and sorting by colour.

Open-ended play, with the First Look Light Table Kit

For more ideas check out our Pinterest board here.

Open-Ended Playing with the First Look Light Table Kit

Look at this great resource!

So as you probably know if you are a regular reader, I am a big fan of light tables. Adding light to an activity, brightens everything, including attention span!

This was the first time we tried out this resource, the First Look Light Table Kit so I laid it all out, showed Daisy the contents and let her explore. There are over 300  pieces in this kit and I couldn’t fit them all on the table!

Daisy set to work matching colours:

Clear Big Buttons were matched with colourful leaf, flower and butterfly transparencies.

Here Daisy has matched the shapes of the Clear Big Buttons and the Fancy Stringing Rings

I have realized the importance of letting children explore independently, without the restrictions of set tasks or outcomes. Simply playing.

The rule:

New Resource = Open-Ended Exploration

The chance to fully explore a resource without the pressure of outcomes, allows children to follow their own thought patterns and investigate their own theories.

As teachers, we are often too quick to narrow a resource into a set learning activity and then we wonder why students are playing with the resources rather than doing the activity we set! The pressure of following curriculum and meeting teaching targets means we often sacrifice open-ended exploration.

ECE’s are wonderful at setting up explorations free from set outcomes. “Invitations” are happening frequently in daycare and preschool rooms. This carries into kindergarten where teachers still recognize the need for play-based learning.

My wish: play-based learning with open-ended exploration continues through elementary school.

Is this possible while still meeting curriculum targets?

My answer is yes, what is yours?

DIY Light Table Colour Bags

Daisy has been writing her name for nearly a year now but recently she has taken to using capital letters and inverting the D and S. It was time to intervene and do a little bit of focused letter teaching.

I remember seeing colour bags somewhere on the lovely world wide web but I didn’t pin it so I’m working from a vague memory. Daisy and I set out on a mission to make colour bags for the light table.

You need:

We spooned roughly 5 tablespoons of gel into each bag. I held the bags while Daisy counted. We filled one bag, got organized to fill another and went to lift the spoon but it had disappeared.

The gel had eaten it! After much giggling, we found the spoon and continued filling. Next came the food colour drops. Counting and good fine motor control skills were needed as Daisy added 5 drops of colour to each bag.

With full bags of colour, we headed down to the light table to play.

We had put a little bit too much coloured gel in the bags. I squished it into a container to use for…something? Testing writing on the bags allowed us to get the amount just right. I wrote a letter on the green bag. Daisy copied on the pink bag and then she wrote it on paper.

She worked away perfecting her letters and even took my role of drawing a dotted letter to follow if she got lost.

I had to remind her to use the right hand to make shapes in the gel then I realized I had set the table up for myself; a leftie!

For Daisy, the gel bags should be on the right side of the table so she does not have to reach too far with the writing hand. They are secured to the table with parcel tape.

The bright colours make me smile!