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I was first introduced to the awesomeness of the light box at a fine motor continuing education course. And yes, I was very close to ordering the $45 product right then and there. Why do courses make all of these therapy products look so irresistible? I always walk away thinking, “How have I lived as a therapist without this product!?” It’s like late night home shopping for therapists. But thankfully I resisted, and Pinterest set me on the right course of DIY therapy greatness. Check out one example of this project here: DIY Light Table
This could not get much easier; you basically put some Christmas lights into a plastic bin and voilà… light box! The only tips that I could pass along would be the following:
1. Place parchment paper under the top of the lid to diffuse the light source.
2. One website mentioned placing aluminum foil underneath the lights in order to project the light upward. I went ahead and threw some in the bottom of the box, but I didn’t notice that big of a difference.
3. Choose a plastic bin that has a smooth lid (a surprisingly difficult challenge when I was searching) or, as I later discovered, just turn the bin upside down and the bottom is usually smooth. This makes it easier to complete writing tasks on the light box.
The only real difficulty of this project was persuading my husband to climb into the creepy attic to retrieve the Christmas lights, but thankfully he was a good sport.
So upon trying this in the clinic, I discovered a very important fact… Everything is more fun with a light box!
At first I was discouraged when I realized that I didn’t have a ton of colorful see-through manipulatives, but I was actually surprised by how many of my day-to-day materials worked with the light box. (Of course I could always get super ambitious and make something like this pin: DIY Light Table Toys)
Here are some examples of the activities that I tried:
Fine motor strengthening tasks using marbles or small game pieces were surprisingly colorful.
For pre-writing tasks, the children used popsicle sticks or the Handwriting Without Tears wooden pieces to build letters and shapes.
I only tried simple sensory activities using a rice or bean bin, but it didn’t take much to notice that the children were drawn to the subtle shadows and light spots that moved around as they played. I’m sure other sensory tasks would be even more fun with this setup, like the bags used in this pin: Sensory Bags for Children
One of the best things about the light box was that it allowed me to complete a lot of writing tasks, squeezing in way more trials than I would have if we were just doing regular pencil and paper activities. The children traced their letters using progressively lighter marker colors as their guide, or just did their regular writing tasks on top of the light box. Regardless, it was a fun change of pace.
Basically, the light box provides an extra incentive for children to participate in an activity. This is always a win in a therapy session. Plus, the light source is calming for children with sensory processing issues and creates a safe and inviting space for play.
So yes, definitely go throw some lights in a plastic bin and get to work! It is worth the effort and has already earned a permanent place in my therapy sessions.
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