As part of my continuing number focus with Monkey, our first was a Simple Counting Activity,  I decided to make some numbers which we can use on the light table. You can buy plastic versions of these but since I had all the materials at home and I was feeling in a crafty mood I decided to give it a go myself. You can make these easily in about an hour, probably quicker if you aren’t trying to watch The Great British Bake Off at the same time!

DIY Light table numbers

You will need:

  • Number templates – I opted for the large ones on First Palette you can find them at First Palette
  • Sharpie
  • Coloured cellophane
  • Scissors
  • Laminator and sheets

DIY Light table numbers

The only tricky part is cutting the cellophane, at first I thought I would cut around the numbers but realised that was a bit fiddly. It was far simpler to use a sharpie to trace the number and then cut! Also because the cellophane was static it meant it stuck to the paper easily.


Once cut the trick is to get them into the laminating sheet without turned over edges – takes a little patience…

DIY Light table numbers

We decided to use ours with Monkey’s favourite light table accessory – water beads! He loves them, I don’t blame him really as they are very tactile and feel great between little fingers. These ones are on their fourth use and I was impressed by how well they have held up.


If you have not come across them before they are traditionally meant for cut flowers to add colour and interest to vases. They start life as tiny little solid balls that absorb water and swell to around marble size. I should also say now that I only introduced Monkey to water beads once he had stopped mouthing everything and he could understand they do not go in his mouth. These are definitely a choking hazard and they are synthetic so would not be good for your little one if they swallowed them! Please be aware of this. Even now I will not leave him unattended with water beads.

The water beads need to go into soak in tap water around 12 hours before you need them. I say around as I have done it the night before and used them in the morning which is only about 8 hours. It just means the less time you leave them in the less time they have to soak up the water and grow. In some ways the smaller they are the harder they are so less likely to get crushed by small hands – they are stronger when less saturated. However they are an ideal sensory play material as they are very tactile – even as an adult there is something about them.  It is possible to reuse them by letting them dry out completely before storing and then re-soaking them. I buy ours from amazon and they come in a wide variety of colours.

Monkey used the water beads to count the numbers out, placing them in clear tumblers:

DIY Light table numbers

He did really well with this and asked to move onto other numbers. He always gravitates towards the blue water beads so we decided to make a number with the blue numbers only. He needed a lot of help but we counted out 49 blue water beads.

DIY Light table numbers

Once he started to loose interest in the numbers, he wanted to sort the beads into different colours in the cups. We have left this out to play with tomorrow, the water beads will keep him coming back and hopefully with the numbers included in the play it will help with his recognition.

Have you any great ideas for light table resources?

Mudpie xx

what katy said


  1. This is fantastic thank you so much for sharing it looks like
    So much fun and of course children learn so much better when they are playing and having fun! I’m sharing this post as I defy array think lots of mums could really use this such a great idea. I’m going to look into getting a light box xx

  2. oh wow! This looks like so much fun! My son would love this – we don’t have a light table but it could work without one as well (although not as pretty!). I’m not sure he would keep the water beads out of his moth though.

    • We had a DIY light table for a while from a really useful shallow storage box and Christmas lights (battery operated). Which worked quite well 🙂 xx

  3. These do look fun and you could use them for lots of different activities. I guess you could make more to deal with bigger numbers too.

    • Thank you, that’s what I am planning on doing when he gets past the 20s. Also planning on making the alphabet at somepoint! 🙂

  4. Becky, Cuddle Fairy Reply

    What a fab idea! I am so impressed he counted up to 49! I haven’t heard of water beads before. You always have the best educational crafts! x

  5. sewingbeefabric Reply

    I love your light table! I’ve not seen one before. I spent my morning doing similar but as a poster with the alphabet 🙂

  6. Wow that is such a great idea. I would never have thought of anything like that x

    • They are brilliant one of Monkeys favourite and so easy to prep hardly any set up would definitely recommend xx

  7. Katie (Growing Up KaterTot) Reply

    Wow!! I absolutely LOVE the water bead idea! I never thought to use those for hands-on learning. I’m going to buy some ASAP! I have a feeling my daughter will really enjoy using them to practice counting. Fantastic use of the light table. You’re just so creative! xx

  8. leslierickerby Reply

    Brilliant idea! I’d love a light table… I’m just not sure what for yet lol

  9. In love with the water bead idea I would have never have thought to use this with the children I look after but it is such a fantastic idea thank you.

  10. What a fantastic idea!! We will need to do this when Elliott’s that little bit older! Thanks for sharing! Suz x

  11. I’ve always wanted to make a light table and do some fun activities with Luke, but I’ve never had a clue where to start! The numbers look awesome, your crafty skills really paid off. I’ve never used water beads either, although I do keep meaning to buy some. They look like so much fun and I know Luke would love them! Ray xx #ToddlerApprovedTuesday

  12. Your posts and crafts ideas always make me feel excited for when Arjun grows up – usually the thought of him getting bigger depresses me! Love this idea especially as it’s educational too. Thanks for linking up #babybrainmonday x

  13. Thank you for sharing this at #made4kids! I love this activity! I keep seeing water bead activities that look like so much fun! They are definitely on my list to try with my kids.

    • They are, it’s always a struggle to get them put away as he wants to keep them out constantly! 🙂 thanks for hosting x

  14. Great activity! T loves water beads too, we’ve never use a light box but it looks fab! Thanks so much for linking up to #toddlerapprovedtuesday this week x

    • You can make your own with a really useful box and fairy lights which is what we use to have initially 🙂 xx

  15. Katy (What Katy Said) Reply

    Oh my god I want a light table and I also want you to come live with me ok? x

    • Ha ha think Hubby may have an issue with that :)! Lol! You can make your own box version with battery operated Christmas tree lights and a flat really useful storage box xx

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