Children love to explore, engage and learn about the world around them using all their senses and there are many wonderful sensory toys on the market but they are often extremely pricey. We’ve got a great way to provide sensory play lights at home or in your setting for much less.
Supplies To Make Your Sensory Play Lights
(This post contains affiliate links.)
- Push Button Battery Lights. These are the kind that are often sold to stick under kitchen cupboards and to go in dark wardrobes. You simply push them to turn them on or off. Amazon in both the UK and US have well priced multipacks.
- Coloured Tissue Paper UK / US
- Star or Glitter Fabric UK / US
- Sticky Tape
How To Make Sensory Play Lights
Push button lights are just so great for young children to explore as they turn off and on so easily with a simple push. The ones I have are round and hexagonal but you can get square and oval shaped ones too.
I have seen children younger than one succeed in turning them on and off and thoroughly enjoy practising doing it over and over. Very young children can use a whole hand to push and older children can manage with a thumb or finger.
First of all I put batteries into all of my push button lights and then I used a bit of sticky tape to keep the batteries extra safely tucked away from little hands. I set some lights aside to keep plain and used the others to add the colours.
Adding the colour to the lights was really easy. I simply cut a few squares of each colour and taped them onto the top of the lights. I found that I needed 3 or 4 layers of tissue paper for the colours to show up with the bright light under them.
I then put the lights under my sparkly, starry fabric, dim the main room lights and invite the children in to play, lifting the fabric over our heads to make a cosy den.
The fabric you choose is up to you and it’s fun to vary this activity with different fabric choices at different times. Light weight fabrics work well and some children may prefer fabric that is slightly see through, like netting. I look out for fabrics with shimmer and shine to it, be that in the shape of stars, planets or sequins and glitters.
Children will love shining their different coloured lights onto the fabric, especially if the fabric is shimmery shiny too.
If you don’t have any fabric, another of our favourite ideas is to cut out tin foil star and moon shapes and blue tack them to the underside of the table. I leave them there all year round so whenever the children want to pretend play involving nighttime I simply throw a blanket over the table and they have a ready-made night sky. You can buy glow in the dark stars and planets (US) quite cheaply too which also work well under a table top.
What Do children Learn With sensory Play Lights?
Sensory Play Lights To Build Language
Playing with lights and colours in the dark is of course great fun but it also gives us lots of opportunities for children to explore and practice new language as we chat about what we are experiencing.
Here are just some of the words we came up with in a quick brain storm, no doubt you will be able to think of lots more too.
lights, bright, sparkle, shimmer, shine, dazzle, bright, dull, red, orange, yellow, glow, shadow, dark, dim, shine, torch, battery, push, press, hard, soft, on, off, night, sunset, stars, moon, twinkle, sky
Sensory Play Lights For Social And Emotional Development
Huddling together under the coloured fabric gives a great opportunity for children to learn about sharing and turn taking with you and any other children or cuddly toys that might be joining in. Children can take turns with and share the various coloured torches you provide and of course they have to physically share a small space too. You can encourage caring, sharing and co-operation with questions like “Please may I have a turn with the red one when you’ve finished with it?” or “Could you find a torch that Teddy might like?”
Sensory Play Lights For Developing Listening Skills
Snuggling up together with torch-light can be a really cosy quiet time too. In our very busy and noisy lives I think it can be really valuable for children to experience quiet too. Perhaps you can keep as quiet as you can for a minute or two to see what the children can hear. Maybe a car or cat outside, maybe a tap dripping, maybe a bird in the garden?
And of course, being close together in your starry den is a great time to really listen to each other and promote conversational skills.
Sensory Play Lights For Exploring Touch, Smell and Taste
It can be great fun to let children explore how doing ordinary tasks alters in the semi darkness. Can they draw a picture or read their favourite book in the dark? If you give them something to hold can they tell what it is by touch alone? You can offer bite sized pieces of different food to try. Can the children identify it by taste alone?
Sensory Play Lights For Snuggling and Singing
Cosy snuggling is a great time to sing your favourite songs or lullabies. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star has always been a firm favourite here. Little ones might like to sing their favourite cuddly toys to sleep.
Sensory Play Lights For Fine Motor Skills
Children can practice turning the lights on and off with a whole hand, finger or thumb. They might like to trace the patterns of the stars or shadows with a pointed finger.
You could easily extend the activity with torches that turn on and off in different ways too. The pound shop/dollar store is often a great place to find cheap torches. I’ve a collection with some that twist on and off, some that have sliding on/off switches, some that have push on/off buttons and some that are dynamo type where you pump or turn the lever to generate your own electricity.
You could even add some glow sticks too which are great for curling, rolling and waving too.
Sensory Play Lights and Science
Torch play is great for exploring light and shadows. Can the children see what happens to light and shadows as they move the torches closer or further away from objects. Can they make their hand shadow really big or really small?
Looking for more sensory play ideas?
I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to Children’s Sensory Activities that you can follow.
Here’s some products for both the UK and US that I love for this project: