Shining a Spotlight on Light Play

Our partners at Kinderberry Hill share some great ideas on how to incorporate light play into your play time this winter.

Shining a Spotlight on Light Play | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Winter gives us many long and cozy evenings. Have you ever thought about brightening them up with a little light play?

Light offers children an active approach to science! They create and test hypotheses, conduct experiments and gain knowledge about natural light both indoors and out. Children are drawn to light and soon learn to change and manipulate it – even babies! Watch your baby examine their own hands in different lights or stop crawling when they spot their shadow. This is the magic of light play: curiosity and discovery!

The Reggio Emilia Approach values light play greatly in the classroom. Light is viewed as a medium with which to create and explore; a rich sensory experience. At Kinderberry Hill, we also value opportunities to experiment with light. Our classrooms incorporate light tables, overhead projectors, rope lights, flashlights and even LED projectors into play. However, these experiences do not need to be elaborate or costly, and can happen in the comfort of your home. They can be as simple as playing with a flashlight or finding a sunny spot on the floor. Light experiences are not meant to lead to a specific solution, rather to inspire research and experimentation in children.

Shining a Spotlight on Light Play | Twin Cities Mom Collective

To set up your own light play at home, start by gathering one or two of the following items: flashlight, battery operated tea lights, rope lights, tap lights, holiday lights, clear (and/or colored) transparent cups, silk/satin scarves, scraps of fabric, tissue paper, hand-held mirrors, glow sticks and anything else that might change with the addition of light!

Now, pull the shades and lower the lights around the room . . .

Start small. Try offering just one or two items. For example, you might turn on a few tea lights and invite your child to turn on the rest. Then, line them up, cover them with your hand or even put them in your pocket. How does the light change? Maybe invite your child to bend and shake glow sticks with you. Investigate the colors that shine on their hand. They may twirl and watch the light streak the dark. Let them explore as they wish. Remember, they are discovering a new medium. First, they will want to find out what the light does, then what they can do with it!

As your child becomes familiar with these light items, enrich play with fabrics, mirrors, shadow puppets, boxes, scarves, etc. Let them lead this play. Watch as they conduct experiments and become creative. If you happen to run out of enhancements, just ask your child. They will know what they want to test next!

Shining a Spotlight on Light Play | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Ideas for Light Play at home:

  • Find a box big enough for your child to crawl in and give them a flashlight (tents, closets and low cupboards are great options too).
  • Lay holiday lights out with scarves and fabric draped over them. Enjoy the many colors.
  • Tap lights are great for babies to turn on and off (and on and off!).
  • Stack translucent plastic cups on a sunny window ledge. What happens to the colors and light?
  • Tea lights are the perfect addition to any basket of blocks.
  • Glow sticks are fun in the snow at night! And fun in a bubble bath too!
  • Play tag with flashlight circles on the ceiling. Add a mirror and see where the light bounces.
  • Shine a flashlight on the wall and examine shadows of favorite toys, hand shadows, or even create a few stick puppets to enjoy the spotlight!
  • Cozy up your bedtime routine with a favorite book and a flashlight.

Shining a Spotlight on Light Play | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Our favorite Light Play toys!


Sara Reichstadt is the Education Coordinator for the seven NAEYC-accredited Twin Cities Kinderberry Hill Child Development Centers.  Sara earned a bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota, where she trained in the Shirley G. Moore Lab School. Sara, who has been with Kinderberry Hill since 1999, has taught in infant, toddler and preschool classrooms as well as serving in management positions. As Education Coordinator, Sara helps implement curriculum, offers classroom support and conducts teacher trainings. Sara is also a MNCPD (Minnesota Center for Professional Development) registered trainer in the SEEDS of Early Literacy Program. She is passionate about early education and helping children, teachers and families. Sara has two young children and knows firsthand the importance of a quality early education.

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