The use of light panels within the early years setting is an approach known as ‘Reggio Emelia’ due to its origin from this location in northern Italy.
Here, the use of light from natural and artificial sources are used to add to the learning environment within settings for toddlers and young children.
Educational expert Linda Thornton has studied and used this approach for many years. In her article on ‘Learning from the Reggio Approach – Light and reflection’ she discusses how light and mirrors are used for perspective and creative learning from its source in Reggio, to its use in UK childcare settings.
Several ways to use light in learning have been highlighted, and include the following:
- Allowing for large windows and natural light within the building
- Use of windows to give interesting views of the outside world from within
- Altering artificial light levels to allow for investigation of light and shadow
- Use of shadow screens and light tables to explore the natural effects of light
- Creating dark areas where light tables are used to enhance the experience
- Use of light panels to explore pattern, shape, form, colour, opacity and colour mixing
- Use of light panels for sensory exploration
There are many ways to include the use of light panels within either early years settings, or at home for young children. Some of the potential creative activities that can be carried out with light panels are discussed further in this article, identifying the key benefits and ways to enhance the learning experience.
Light & Colour
There are many coloured resources that can be used alongside the light panel to explore this area of learning. The primary characteristic to look for in coloured resources is their opacity or translucent qualities. This allows for children to identify colours, both individually, and by layering different colours on top of one another to explore the effects.
The use of coloured acetate and tissue paper can be a great resource for creative activities, and making ‘stained glass window’ art. Another great resource is the TickiT Light Panel Colour Resources for early years. This set contains 634 different pieces of varying shape and colour. These can be used with the light panel in a variety of ways and come with a easy storage box and an activity guide.
Numbers & Counting
Using coloured counters on top of the light panel is a great way to explore counting and numbers. The use of the objects in this way can help children to answer questions and solve problems, such as ‘Can you find me 5 blue squares?’
Written numbers can also be used on the light panel for children to learn and associate the quantities with their written form. Children can identify which number matches the number of counters or shapes and could also trace numbers to learn the correct number formations.
Letters & Words
Similarly to the use of numbers on the light panel, using coloured translucent upper and lower case letter will help children to recognise their form and shape. Children can trace their hand over the letters or could sound out the letters placed on the light panel.
Another fun activity could be for children to match the letter and its sound to objects that begin with this letter, such as the letter ‘b’ and the object ‘button’. For older children, using clear acetate on light panels can help develop writing skills by encouraging them to trace over handwriting patterns.
Language & Communication
Using different shape and colour resources with a light panel can help to develop children’s scientific language in their everyday play. Using different objects, such as translucent people shapes, can develop mathematical vocabulary. This can be done by asking questions like ‘which one is bigger/smaller?’, or ‘which one is taller/shorter?’, and ‘which one is different/the same?’
Another activity to encourage language skills is to use clear acetate on the light panel with faces depicting different emotions. This is a great way to help children identify different emotions and develop the vocabulary they need express their feelings.
Use a box of a collection of natural materials such as leaves, shells, twigs and cones, that can be placed on the light panel. These can be used for scientific exploration of opacity, shape and patterns. Shapes can be traced, and objects with similar properties can be grouped together.
Natural materials are also great for children to use in free play and storytelling. By collecting a range of materials together, including natural, reclaimed and small world characters, children can create stories on the light panel. This can help develop their storytelling skills.
Sensory Liquid Sets are a great resource to use on a light panel for children to observe how liquids flow. You could also use clear containers such as beakers or small Petri dishes to add water to and place on the light panel. Then, by adding drops of food colouring to the water, children can see how the colours move.
Sensory play can also be enhanced with the use of a light panel by placing a clear tray over the panel which you may then add different materials to. These can include paints and marbling inks in water which you can observe the movements of, or mix together and create art. Sand can be used, and you may place other objects inside for discovering, or foam can be used to explore a different sensory medium.
If you would like more great activities and information on how these help with the learning experience, then just fill in your details below and we’ll send you a free TickiT guide written by expert Linda Thornton.
There are so many ways to enhance young children’s learning through the use of light. Of the many ways to use light, light panels are an excellent resource that aid and support multiple activities. These activities engage children in a creative way, and help develop skills in numbers and counting, writing and letter sounds, storytelling, scientific exploration and language, expression of feelings and of self, and for sensory play.
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- TickiT: Guide to using light panels
- Childcare expo - https://www.childcareexpo.co.uk/learning-from-the-reggio-approach-light-and-reflection/#
- Childcare expo - https://www.childcareexpo.co.uk/using-light-and-mirrors-to-enhance-teaching-and-learning-by-linda-thornton/