TUTORIAL on how to build a sturdy portable light table for kids, with remote control
If you are familiar with the “REGGIO EMILIA” Education philosophy, then you might have heard about one of the classroom element: the light table!
The light table teaches children about shades, colors, how light affects objects, etc.
They are fascinating but unfortunately they can cost up to 300 dollars.
With this tutorial, you will be able to have a portable light table for 53 dollars! plus, it is even better than the standard light table because it comes with multiple colors for the kids to explore.
And it comes with a remote control, which controls the colors and is easy and FUN to use for a kid!
This light table is now in the SCIENCE CORNER of Paula’s room, the Pre-K!!
This light table changes from blue, green, yellow, red, and white.
Sturdy portable light table, multi colored with remote control
The remote control is easy to use for kids
Wood tray or a shallow box (we used an ikea (KLACK Tray, 7.99$KLACK
or this tray from TARGET which costs more ($20) but works better because it is deeper so we cannot see the lights through the plexiglass
A strip of RGB LED lights (5M, 300 LEDs) with remote controller and 12V power supply 15$
An Acrylic Sheet 3/16” White large enough to cover the tray. We used Acrylic Plexiglass Plastic Sheet 3/16″ – White 2447. Found a 24” x 36” for 30$ including shipping.
Some good glue (Superglue or other), 6 small brass wooden screws
1. Preparing the tray: if the tray is already white, perfect. If not, it is strongly recommended to paint it
white. It does make a big difference (loss of light if not painted).
2. Gluing the LEDs in the tray. The LED strips have a self-adhesive back, but before putting them in place, make sure that the lines will be spaced out evenly and that you leave room for the controller (if you want it inside the tray). We found that the adhesive back is pretty good, but at the u-turn, it wasn’t strong enough: this is where we used our glue to ensure they stay in place.
3. Place the controller and the wires. We glued the controller inside the tray so that it is hidden when the acrylic sheet is in place. It the tray you are using does not allow it, no problem putting it on the side or under the tray. We also glued the wires in place. Note that controllers with a remote have two wires: one going to the strip and another terminated with a small IR receiver for the remote. To ensure the controller receives a strong signal from the remote once the sheet is in place, we placed it in the corner, a little higher.
4. Route and secure the power supply cable. For the tray we used, we could run the cable through the handling holes, but you may have to drill a hole for it. With little kids, we were afraid that the power cable be pulled from the controller. To prevent this, we added a small wooden screw with a flat head to pin down (not crush!) the cable. (see picture)
5. Cut the acrylic sheet. To cut the acrylic sheet to dimension, there is a number of methods and tools. The simplest for us was to use a fine saw (metal or wood). For a proper fit, we also cut the corner where the IR receiver is. A metal file can be used to clean the edges if necessary.
6. Screw in the acrylic sheet. Pre-drill the screw holes with a small drill bit (1/8” for our screws) through the acrylic sheet into the wood so that everything lines up. Go slow with little pressure on the drill. Then, enlarge the hole in the acrylic sheet so that the screws do not have to be screwed through the sheet. If you skip this step, the sheet may crack when screwed.
7. Plug and play!
3/16 is fine for small areas. But if you want to do this on a larger area or just build something tougher, use ¼ or 3/8”.
We like the multicolor, but the same thing can be done with only white LEDs and the light will be more homogeneous.
The LEDs needs to be an inch or more away from the sheet. Less and they’ll show through as individual color points instead of an overall color.