There is something about Christmas lights that just makes kids happy. If only they could play with them without the danger of eating them or breaking them!
Here’s a solution: Create a DIY light box and let them explore the lights and do a little learning while they are at it.
This DIY light box is so incredibly simple to make.
You just throw the Christmas lights in there, drill a hole for your plug, a few extra holes for ventilation and you are done. Check out our post on creating the lightbox here.
Our 4 year old and 1 year-old both love this and it is a great tool for sorting and tracing.
Here are four ways we are using a DIY Lightbox:
Mostly our one-year- old likes to put different objects on the light box and watch the light shine through.
He is plenty busy just using the light box as one tool in free play. He silently puts all sorts of different things on it. I am sure he’s learning without any additional input needed from me.
However, I did print out a color sorting sheet and put it on top. I have started talking to him about the colors and he enjoys putting different objects into the circles, which is great fine motor practice. My four-year- old loves doing the color sorting as well, even though it is no challenge for her.
The DIY light box is an excellent tool for moving to free letter writing. It can be used as a transition between tracing and free writing. Just take any page of letters or workbook page and put it on top of the light box. Add a plain piece of paper over it and the child can ‘trace’ away.
We like to use this for card-making too. Our four year old loves making cards for friends and family. I can write out the words (i.e. Happy Birthday Pop-Pop) on one sheet of paper and she can place her sheet over that. She feels very proud about making a card independently!
If it’s numbers you are working on, use a number page over the light box. Your kids can trace the numbers and sort objects into numbered piles.
Tracing and Coloring Pictures
This is one of our favorite uses for the light box. Even though your child is tracing pictures and not letters or numbers, don’t think they are not learning transferable skills.
This activity promotes fine motor practice and pencil control.
Give them any color picture and a blank piece of paper and let them trace away.
Bonus: Pretend Play Doctor
Here’s a bonus way to use a DIY Light Box: as a lightbox for X-Rays in pretend play.
Our 4 year old loves playing doctor and we recently got her these great X-Rays. T
They really light up nicely when laid over the light box. (You can get X-Rays like this on Amazon, affiliate link)
Screen-Free Mom is a psychologist who is happily raising her two kids sans screens. She runs Screen Free Parenting where she writes about the effects of screens on children and provides tons of screen-free alternative activities. She has developed a system to help organize the activities she believes young children learn and grow from: the S.P.O.I.L. system. Before you turn on the screen, she asks, “Have you SPOIL-ed your child yet today?”. You can follow Screen-Free Parenting via her website newsletter or on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.