N’s always been interested in learning about the night sky, the moon and stars, and many a time we’ve stopped to look out of the window. We talk about the different stages of the moon especially, he’s a bit obsessed when it’s a crescent moon.
We’re lucky in that living in the middle of nowhere, we have a pitch black sky and the stars look amazing, but it’s really hard to see one constellation to point it out to N. Without having a telescope and keeping children up late at night, here’s some activities to help teach them about the moon and stars.
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Alternative ways to teach kids about the night sky
1, Constellation tubes
Previously we made star constellation tubes to help teach some of the shapes, but also isolate them from the huge number of stars we see in the sky. You can build up a collection or stick with the same ones until they can pick them out in the sky.
2, Use old fashioned glow in the dark stars
Stick them on walls or ceilings to create a night sky
N has some in his room, and if you buy some with a variety of sizes, you can make your own night sky placing them in shapes of constellations. Ours are just random at the moment (because the OH isn’t keen on things being stuck to walls, but you could have a whole nightscape going on.
3, Look at books
Our favourite book to look at constellations (and the phases of the moon) is a really old, massive atlas that was my dad’s years ago. It’s got a double page spread of the night sky and it’s easy to see the different constellations. But we also have a variety of other books which explain space, earth and the weather, all of which can tie into learning about moon and stars.
Here’s a book we like
4, Create the phases of the moon
I always think about the jaffa cake advert when I think about the moon….full moon, half moon, solar eclipse…tell me it’s not just me?!
You can do a standard size picture by using paper or card, or go supersized and use paper plates for the moon. The latter saves cutting the circular shape out first.
- Take a black or dark blue piece of paper for the sky
- Take a number of plates (or cut out circles of white card/paper)
- Cut the plates to shape:
- Leave 1 whole = full moon
- Cut one plate in half = last quarter (also known as half moon)
- Cut one plate into a ‘banana’ or crescent shape and save the other size of it = waxing or waning crescent moon
- The remaining piece of plate = waxing or waning gibbous moon
- If you want to make the full set of phases, then repeat the crescent moon again – then have a waxing and waning version of those 4 pieces.
- Stick the moons onto your sky. You could even draw the craters, or have a blood or supermoon as well.
To explain the phases of the moon, it all depends on the angle at which we can see the moon from our position on earth. The angle changes as the moon orbits the earth. We get day and night depending on whether our side of the earth is facing the moon or not.
5, Act out the earth’s orbit
Maybe one for older children, but N is always saying that the moon is going to bed when it’s day time and the sun then gets up. Trying to explain that the moon belongs to earth, and the earth orbits the sun doesn’t necessarily make sense without seeing it visually. A fun way to show how it happens is to have children dressing up and pretending to be the earth, moon and sun.
The sun stands still.
The earth spins round, but at the same time orbits the sun (taking 365 days)
The moon goes round the earth (taking around 28 days)
The alternative is to use different sized balls – why not make your own papier mache solar system to hang up?)
For some other star and moon ideas check out the below:
What other ways have you used to teach children about the night sky?