Tuesday 5 March 2013


Doomed to sit on the toilet lid!
"Mummy, I want to shut myself in the downstairs loo."
In our house this statement means that one of the kids has found something that lights up or glows! Our downstairs toilet is the only place where you can achieve near total darkness without having to squeeze yourself onto a shelf in a cupboard, and is therefore the place of choice for experimenting with light. On the most recent occasion it was a toy Spiderman, whose web looked like it was made from the same stuff as the luminous stars on the boy's bedroom ceiling, but all sorts of other things have spent time in there despite the fact there's barely room to wave a glow stick let alone wield a lightsabre!

Glow stick frenzy
Exploring darkness and light is fascinating to young children and has the exciting element of risk since the darkness can seem pretty scary. It's a good thing to do in wintertime, when there's a lot more opportunity to experiment with the dark, and it's great for developing natural curiosity. Giving the children a light source like a torch, glow stick or glow-in-the dark toy and letting them turn it on and off, or just wave it around in a dark space will let them find out all sorts about the nature of light and dark.

Exploring the woods after dark.
When it comes to bedtime both our boys are somewhat afraid of the dark. No matter how many times we've let them turn the light on and off to prove that everything is exactly the same you just don't see it the same way when it's not lit up, they still like to have a lantern style torch which stays on in their room, and we have to leave the landing light on too. However, when the darkness is part of an experiment they can both overcome this fear. They love nothing more than exploring with a torch, and will happily run around the garden looking for hedgehogs or trying to round up our ducks after dark provided they have a torch to wave. The fear isn't gone, but the excitement makes it bearable.

With my trusty torch I can make it through.

We often go to a local stately home, which has a wonderful park and an adventure playground. The playground gives them the thrill of climbing really high and sliding down massively long slides, but the place that definitely makes their adrenaline pump is a dark cave/tunnel behind a waterfall at the far end of the grounds. At the mid point it is totally pitch black and you have to feel your way along the walls. The boys always go through it with their torches first, but recently the challenge has then been to get through without switching on!

Zac letting the glitterball catch the sun.

You can experiment with natural light too. Reflecting sunlight off a shiny surface to make a little "fairy" fly around the room kept the boys entertained for ages trying to catch it. Zac loved an old disco ball that made it seem like we were in a snowstorm when the sunlight caught all its tiny mirrors; and seeing light refracted into rainbow colours through a glass or prism seems really magical.
We made a baby rainbow!

What am I?
And of course, you can experiment with blocking natural light to make shadows, look at the shadows cast by things around you, and see how your own shadow changes at different times of the day.

So before the days lengthen out and darkness becomes harder to find, why not give them a torch and see what they can find out about light and dark.


  1. What fun and interesting ways to explore light and dark! I love the batman costume - ideal for exploring caves! Thanks for linking up and sharing their fun with Country Kids.

  2. our downstairs toilet is the same re darkness. I love your mini rainbows x

  3. What a fab way to explore the darkness!! Sounds such fun x

  4. What great ideas for exploring light and darkness - brilliant fun :) #CountryKids

  5. Some great ideas to follow on making darkness fun for the kids. #countrykids

  6. Thanks for all your comments. Now I'm back to work part time I often only see the boys after dark on these short days, so I'm revisiting lots of this to make it fun!