Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Space Small World Play on the Light Table

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Space small world play for kids on the light table.

Confession: messy sensory play was really hard for me to get comfortable with. But we are starting to embrace a little bit of messy light table play recently (examples here and here). So I really pushed myself way out of my comfort zone with this small world activity.

Seriously, this space small world play is likely the messiest activity we have done to date. At least on the light table, that is. 

Thankfully this hands-on space themed activity was a massive hit with my boys. They loved every single messy bit of it, as you will see. 

While we did this space small world on the light table, you don't have to use it on the light table. You can simply do this activity in a shallow plastic container instead.

Outer space small world light table activity for kids

What You'll Need for this Space Small World Activity

This small world sensory play idea incorporates a lot of light and a lot of messy hands-on imaginative play. So while it only takes a few minutes to set up, I'm warning you know that cleanup may take quite a bit of time. But here's what you'll need to recreate it yourself:

  • All purpose flour - You could substitute corn starch or icing sugar. It serves as the base for this outer space small world.
  • Safari Ltd Space TOOB figures - Disclosure: this space TOOB was provided to me by Safari Ltd. All opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced by the free product.
  • Light table (optional) - Use if you want the moon-like surface to glow like ours did. By the way, my husband and I made a DIY light table so if you don't have one, you can definitely make your own too!
  • Overhead projector (optional) - I went a bit extra and wanted to make it feel like we were in outer space! 
  • Star shaped jewelry links from the dollar store (optional) - Use if you are using an overhead projector like we did. It really creates the perfect space themed scenery for this activity.

To create the small world, I spread about 1/4 cup of flour on top of our light table. It has a lip around the surface to contain things. Then I arranged the figures from the Safari Ltd Space TOOB as if they were exploring the surface of the moon. Then I flipped on the light table to make it glow like the moon.

Closeup of mini space figurines as part of an outer space small world activity on the light table

Next, I set up the star jewelry links on the overhead projector so that it was casting above our light table. Space isn't space without some stars, right? Please note that the overhead projector is totally optional. I know not everyone has access to one, but it really creates a wonderful and engaging sensory experience don't you think?

Outer space small world play on the light table

Outer Space Small World Play in Action!

The boys first dragged some of the astronauts and miniature space figures through the moon dust. They ended up creating some really cool designs and marks in the flour.

Drawing in moon dust on the light table as part of a space small world activity

Moon dust on the light table

K also spent some time driving the moon rover through the moon dust. A little space exploration, if you will. Yay for some space themed imaginary play!

Toddler driving a moon rover figurine through moon dust on the light table

Closeup of toddler's hand driving a moon rover figurine through moon dust on the light table

Then the boys ditched the mini figures and decided to really get into touching and feeling the moon dust. Like really into it. So here's your reminder that simple sensory play with just one or two sensory play materials can go a long way! 

Preschool child looking at hands after some messy sensory play on the light table

Closeup of toddler hands playing in flour on the light table

It started off innocently, but progressed to rubbing the dust on their clothes. I should have seen this coming, right? I mean my boys do have a thing for turning activities like this into a full body interactive sensory play experience. It's kind of their thing.

Toddler rubbing flour on their belly

Then the boys stretched out on the light table, fully embracing the messiness of the moon dust. And messy, flour-covered clothes means than an outfit change followed shortly. Meanwhile, I tell myself over and over, "I love messy play. It's worth the mess." Right?

Toddler and preschooler playing with flour on the light table

Small World Sensory Play Clean Up Tips

Now, let's talk clean up. Here are some tips on how to make clean up easier for messy sensory invitations like this (even if you decide to go the toddler sensory play tray route suggested in the first point below):

  • Instead of putting the flour directly on the light table, put it into a clear plastic container instead. Then place that on top of the light table. You're basically creating a small world in a sensory bin or on a play tray. 
  • Lay a clear tablecloth over top of the light table and place the flour on that. After the kids are done with this small world activity, simply pick up the tablecloth. Then dump the flour into a container to be reused for future sensory activities. 
  • Keep a broom and dust pan handy to clean up the light table afterwards. Then wipe with a wet cloth to pick up whatever flour is leftover. Sometimes good old fashioned play requires a bit of clean up and that's okay.
  • To clean the figures used in this small world activity, simply run them under some running water.

Hopefully you'll embrace the mess like I did and give this space small world a try!

More Space Sensory Activities You'll Love

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Outer space small world light table activity for kids