I looked up what other people did with these tables and there are some great ideas out there (check out Teach Preschool ), but I came up with a few of my own, as well. Here are the ones that worked out really well:
Rocks and Minerals: I have a good collection of these. Great ways for children to explore them is to observe them on a light table and to get them wet using a water table. I put the light table into a dark tent that I invented (I call it my “space tent”). Some rocks are translucent/transparent and some are not. Slices of minerals can be stacked up, too. Children always enjoyed exploring my collection in this space. Rocks always change when they are wet, as well. I placed ordinary rocks on a table adjacent to the water table and let them dip them in the water to see how their colours and patterns came alive.
Dead Bugs: It is so handy having a collection of dead bugs and spiders! Observing them on a light table makes you see them differently. Wing patterns are particularly outstanding to observe on a light table.
Tracing: I often pair a tracing activity with my science collection activity. For example: if I have butterflies out to observe, I print out some detailed line drawings of butterflies and place these along with plain paper and pencils on the light table. Children love this activity, and I feel that it really gets them to concentrate on the many details of the object they are tracing and understand it more. Plus, it is great for the fine motor skills. They can then glue their tracings into their science journals, along with their own drawings and observations.
Planting: Water tables can be filled with more than just water! I filled it up with soil in the spring and placed seeds, cups and spoons on a table adjacent to it. Awesome!
Scrap Paper: We had an old water table in storage. It was missing pieces and could no longer be effectively used for water, sand or rice. I adopted it for scrap paper after dreaming about it one night! What a great idea!! It contains all of those useful bits easily and children find it so easy to rummage around and find just the right paper. Children also cut over top of it and the scrap bits stay contained. No great mess to clean up!
Lego Boats: I tried plasticine boats too, but lego boats were even better. Lego doesn’t always float in water, but if you work at it, you can create something that does. Children spent loads of time working at this.
Islands and marine animals: I put some large rocks and plastic plants in the water table along with some little plastic marine animals. It was a great imaginative play activity. Plus, I know that I can change this up by putting out different kinds of animals and even little people.
Mixing colours: Other sights recommended this too, but I figured out a different way to do it. I covered the light table with plastic wrap (for easy clean up). I then let children place drops of coloured vinegar on the light table (using eye droppers). They could observe and mix the colours, which was really fun. The best part came when I let them sprinkle some baking soda over the vinegar drops!