Lighten up in 2015

What are you doing with the light of your life? It’s 2015, the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. Digichild looks at children’s enlightening play, places to go, things to do that celebrate light and light technologies.

Wee Care toddlers, light table & blocks


Light is so vital to life on earth, yet in Australia where natural light is abundant, we can take it for granted. We search for balance between too much light and too little. We make sure children are protected from harsh light yet have enough exposure to sunlight and fresh air for growing bones and general wellbeing.

Natural light and what it makes possible are the basis of so many early childhood learning experiences. Growing vegetables, shadow play, plant photosynthesis, explorations about the sun, sunlight and eclipses occupy many hours.

Using imagination, skill and technology children can harness light further. Light sticks, light tables and smart tables, projectors, magnifying lamps, mirrors and other light-based tools bring together science and creativity in early childhood environments.


Carefully chosen lighting ‘can fill space with warmth, add character, intrigue and wonder’ in environments for babies and children. Light adds to visual learning possibilities (Winderlich, 2012). This is well-understood in Italy’s Reggio Emilia schools where light, particularly natural light, is a major feature that accentuates colours and textures.

Wee Care Kindergarten director, Ruth Weinstein, draws inspiration from many sources including Reggio Emilia. Ruth says technology (including many light technologies) is just another of the hundred languages of children. The kindergarten uses light and light technologies throughout its environment. Children work with a light projector to explore the built world, near and far. They project images, design buildings and cities. A light table helps other children examine leaves and illuminate translucent building blocks. Mirrors and reflected light created small beautiful spaces.

Light, blocks and young girl from Wee Care

Halfway around the world light can be precious and rare. In many rural and impoverished homes sunset is the end of light for the day. Lack of light shapes children’s lives and their learning. Tackling this, the Liter of Light movement in Pakistan creates solar bulbs from thrown-away plastic bottles. Using a few bits of technology—a simple circuit and a small solar panel—the familiar 1.5 litre plastic bottles when filled with water can create eco-friendly light at night. Click here to see more about the Liter of Light and solar bottle bulbs.

One lighting company is marking the International Year of Light by challenging the way we think about made light. It is trialling the idea of ‘Light as a service’ within a circular economy. Customers will buy an amount and level of illumination rather than hardware. They can return individual items for servicing, recycling and upgrade. It’s one of many interesting concepts from international events celebrating light and light technologies in 2015. See more at

Voyage_PaperboatsCloser to home, see your town, your dwelling, your life in a different light. Join in festivities and activities in your area or online. In Canberra, 300 paper boats will take to the water at sunset as part of Enlighten, a week of light festivities (27 February to 7 March) and James Turrell’s extraordinary exhibition at the Australian National Gallery has children and adults ‘feeling’ the light. In Melbourne, White Night transforms the city between 7pm and 7am. Find events around Australia by visiting Light 2015 at

What role does natural light and technology-created light play in your world? We would love to hear what children in your early childhood setting are doing to play, understand and celebrate with light.

Seven luminous suggestions

Additional sources: Winderlich, K,  ‘Sensory play and learning’, Everyday Learning Series volume 10, No. 4, 2012 and Children’s Technology Review

Clare McHugh

Clare McHugh is Early Childhood Australia's (ECA) Strategic Communications Executive, working on projects that support ECA’s reputation as a trusted voice for young children, their families, educators and carers. Clare has been part of ECA's Learning Hub Team, managed ECA's Start Early. Respectful relationships for life project and ECA digital initiatives including the federally funded Digital Business Kit and Live Wires. Clare has been thinking and writing about children, family and social policy for a number of years, including for the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council and the Australian government.

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