DIY: colorful discs for the light table in preschool

Explore color in your classroom in a fun and unique way with this simple DIY!

I am not so lucky as my sweet friend Leeanne over at Kreative Resources who managed to find a free set of plexiglass discs to use on her light table. In fact, I don’t even have a light table! But after reading several ideas from others, I was inspired and have managed to make my own discs and light table. This post is about the discs and my next one will be a little tutorial on the light table so stay tuned…

Gathering Your Materials

These colorful discs are a spin off of a “not so nutty” idea for making a rainbow suncatcher shared by “Life in the Nuthouse“! As soon as I saw how to melt plastic cups, I went on a search for the perfect clear, colorful plastic cups…

The cups alone made for some fun play on a light table so I saved some and melted the rest. As you can see (in the photo below) each colorful cup is sitting on a melted down plastic cup (now what I call a colored disc)…

The How-To

To melt the plastic cups, you first need to know that not all plastic clear cups are the same. Some do not melt and others do. “Life in the Nuthouse” talks a little about the difference between cups but I still ended up having to learn this the hard way…

I bought the red and blue cups (shown above) from Meijer and Garden Ridge and they melted fine. The purple and green cups (shown above) came from the dollar store and didn’t budge! So make sure you buy the right type of cups. Later I found a set of brightly colored cups from Meijer. They were in the birthday party supplies and they melted down perfectly…

To melt the cups, you need to preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit first. Then set the cups on a baking pan covered with some parchment paper and pop them in the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes (time depends on your oven and your cups)…

I used a spatula to flatten the cups or shape them a bit while they were still in the oven. The cups soften under the heat but as soon as they hit the cool air they harden and there is no changing them after that…

Light and Color Exploration

I did not cut the bottom out of the cups out like “Life in the Nuthouse” did because I wanted to see the full circle for the light table.  Here are a few of my finished colored discs on my homemade light table…

Not every disc turned out perfectly flat and round but it didn’t matter, they are all really cool to play with and very durable (I dropped a few and they didn’t break or crack)…

Check back to read my next blog post about how I made my own light table…

More Inspiration for your Light Table

Here are some other light table toys you can read about…

Colored water bags on a light table from Kreative Resources

Light table ideas from Strong Start

Exploration light table from Pink and Green Mama

By |2019-02-06T11:32:25+00:00June 13th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Michelle Ames June 13, 2011 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    WOW! What a great idea! I can’t wait to see how you made your light table!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 13, 2011 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      Working on writing that up now:)

  2. Leeanne A June 13, 2011 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    OH you smart lady you!! Now I am jealous of your discs! Even though I have my plexiglass I want to make these too! Love them!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 13, 2011 at 10:44 pm - Reply

      LOL – you can send me your plexiglass:)

  3. Love this! We really need to get a light table! (or build one!)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 14, 2011 at 12:29 am - Reply

      I made one but I still have one in mind that I want to buy on my wishlist!

  4. Carolyne June 14, 2011 at 6:37 am - Reply

    You need to use #6 plastic – explaining why some of the cups did not melt and some melted so well.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 14, 2011 at 9:04 am - Reply

      Yes- Thank you Caroline! You are right. The one’s with #6 on the bottom were the ones that worked!

      • Georgia June 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

        This is great information! I have been to every store in town. bought a set, and failed. I will now refine my search to #6.

      • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 26, 2011 at 10:49 am

        Ah, you poor thing! I had the same problem – definitely need #6 cups!

  5. Stacey June 14, 2011 at 7:22 am - Reply

    Those are fantastic! I would have never thought to melt colored cups. I’ll have to keep my eye out. I also don’t have a light table (and want one more each day) so I’m anxious to see how you made yours.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 14, 2011 at 9:05 am - Reply

      I have the post all ready to come up later this afternoon:)

  6. Kristah June 14, 2011 at 8:37 am - Reply

    I love these. It just so happens to go with my post yesterday about Little Blue and Little Yellow on, so I posted your idea today. Hopefully I can find all the colored cups in our small town. My daughter will love a light table. Can’t wait to see how to make one.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 14, 2011 at 9:02 am - Reply

      I saw your wonderful post on Little Blue and Little Yellow and you are right, it does go well:)

  7. Michelle June 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    I love our light table and sometimes struggle to find enough ideas to use it with. We have done the “normal” things like colored buttons, blocks, water colors, etc… but I love this idea. Not only do we get to do a DIY project, the finished product is interesting on it’s own.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      I have been looking for new ideas too!

  8. Holly June 14, 2011 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    This is such a smart idea!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 14, 2011 at 9:23 pm - Reply


  9. Jodi June 15, 2011 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Stupendous idea! Thank you for your insight! It’s amazing all of the materials that can be used!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm - Reply

      You are welcome – thanks for stopping by Jodi:)

  10. K July 22, 2011 at 9:39 am - Reply

    How safe is it to melt plastic?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 22, 2011 at 9:52 am - Reply

      You melt it on a very low heat in your oven and it isn’t any different than melting chocolate or other items if you have the #6 cups. Like anything you bake – you keep an eye on it but really, they melt very easily and safely.

  11. bella01 October 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    love this idea going to try it.. I did think of some other uses for them. You could put 2 wholes in them one at each end and the kids could use twisty ties (the ones you get on bread etc etc) and make light catchers for the window.. or if you were really clever you could put slits in them and they could make 3D art with them.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm - Reply

      I love when people think of more ideas from one simple concept! Well done!

  12. bella01 October 22, 2011 at 8:13 am - Reply

    Or sorry was thinking about this while I was in bed. Maybe putting something inbetween 2 cups like glitter or if melted at a low temp a little picture or something (you get the idea) So when the child looks at the disks on the light table they see something in the disks. SO excited going to take the kids to walmart today to try it!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 22, 2011 at 9:56 am - Reply

      Isn’t that the way it goes- I do my best thinking when I should be sleeping!!

  13. s October 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    I have looked high and low for #6 plastic cups that are translucent (literally 12 different stores) and have not been successful. I did purchase some heavier feeling ones at the party store- but they did not melt flat. I tried an opaque #6 that melted awesome, but not worthy of a light table. The #5 from the dollar store never moved. Any suggestions as to where to find them? I tried dollar stores, 5 below, walmart, safeway, kmart, tuesday morning, ac moore, shoppers… Thanks for any input. Maybe with all the BPA stuff they just don’t make those kind of cups anymore 🙁

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 23, 2011 at 11:11 pm - Reply

      I have found mine at Meijer in the party supply and a new store here called Garden Ridge. Do you have either of those stores near you?

  14. The Iowa Farmer's Wife December 11, 2011 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    These are so NEAT and I am captivated by your DIY light box (table)! My husband is too. 🙂 We just might need to make one after the holidays! Thanks for sharing!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 12, 2011 at 12:16 am - Reply

      They are fun and simple:) Perhaps your husband will have some great ideas to help you whip up one!

  15. Jodi Tustin August 3, 2017 at 7:49 am - Reply

    What really cool is if you buy clear plastic cups kids can draw on them with sharpies and then melt them down to use their own designs on the light table! Just make sure the design they make is round.

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