When I think of our place in the universe, I’m not going to lie: I get a little freaked out. There’s just something about black holes and infinity that sends shivers up my spine. When I think of astronauts hurtling through the atmosphere, with the front of their rocket ships ablaze, I feel my stomach lurch.
Maybe it’s the result of watching the Challenger explosion in elementary school. I never really thought of it, but it makes sense. That explosion was the great national tragedy of my generation’s childhood and I’m sure each of us has some lingering effects from watching that on live television.
My daughter, however, loves learning about outer space and today I thought I’d share with you some ideas we’ve implemented for learning more about space.
As with most things, I like to keep it simple, with short discussions or lessons and I pay close attention to what my daughter is interested in and go from there. Below, you’ll find the books, videos, and materials we used, along with links. I am not affiliated with any of the resources listed.
I’d suggest this unit for ages 5-9, but you know your child. Trust your own instincts and adjust accordingly.
Space from DK Eyewonder books: Colorful illustrations, neatly organized information, and fun activities make this book a winner. It is laid out nicely for short readings and discussions.
The Magic Schoolbus Space Explorers: Most kids love The Magic Schoolbus, so this book was a natural independent reading book choice forKat. She read 2-4 pages each day and it blended perfectly with what she covered in the Space book.
Story Bots Outer Space. Each planet is covered in a fun, sing-song manner that young children really enjoy. Kat watched the entire series while painting a model of the solar system. All her idea, you guys! You never know where your kids will take you.
Here is another video from PBS Kids: The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about Space
Solar System model: Have your child design and paint a model of the solar system. You can do this so many ways: a paper mâché poster, foam floral arrangement balls painted to represent each planet and the sun, Bake a round cake and surround it by cupcakes to represent a delicious model of the solar system, or you can even buy a solar system model kit (this is what we did, because she happened to see it at the bookstore).
Telescope: This is, perhaps one of the best resources for learning about outer space. Children can view the moon, various stars, and occasionally even Jupiter and Venus through a good telescope. In our home, we keep our telescope set up at the patio doors so Kat or any of us can use it when we want to. I know that perhaps a telescope isn’t in everyone’s budget and in cases like that, maybe a trip to an observatory or planetarium would be an excellent substitute – or addition to this learning adventure.
Some Big Ideas:
- Where is earth in the solar system?
- What is meant by “space?”
- What are stars? Planets? Moons?
- How do we not float away?
- Why do things grow on Earth, but not other planets (that we know of)?
As always, these are just ideas. Follow your child’s interests and your own keen judgment as your child learns. Have fun and if you try any of the ideas I’ve listed, please let me know! If you have something to add, please comment below so other parents can see more options. Learning together is always a good idea.
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