How To Make Outer Space Fun for Kids Ages 3+
Outer space is a great topic that you can use to capture your little one’s attention. Once you get your child started on the subject, you will ignite their curiosity. Who doesn’t want to know about the mysteries of the universe which we call home? It is also one of the best ways to show your kids how science can be fun! It helps them appreciate the Earth more, while giving them a broader understanding of life. You will be surprised at how quickly they catch on from the age of 3 and up.
Stargazing is an activity that the whole family can enjoy together. Setting up a telescope, or a simple outdoor setup for clear nights can create a memorable bonding experience. You can create a stargazing space station with cushions, blankets and all things soft.
Use a flashlight with a red filter (or wrapped with red cellophane) to help your eyes adjust to night time viewing. Pack space-themed food and you can even create a space-themed music playlist - adding songs like Across the Universe by the Beatles or the soundtrack to Interstellar. You can also include glow in the dark clothes, face paint or stickers to create some extra excitement.
Local astronomy clubs, or a visit to your local Planetarium can also help spark your child’s interest.
Having space facts on hand can be great conversation starters with your family. For example, you can tell your child how Eratosthenes of Cyrene is documented as one of the first to point out that the Earth is round, way back in 500 BC. He did so with the help of the sun. The results of his experiment were widely accepted in Ancient Greece. By 240 BC he also determined the Earth’s circumference (i.e. just how big the Earth is). Your child will be sure to have plenty of questions as they learn more.
Say Hello to Outer Space
Here is your age-based handy guide as you introduce your little one to the wonders of the universe.
- Books including Space Walk by Salina Yoon, On the Space Station (A Shine-a-Light Book) by Carron Brown & Bee Johnson and Life on Mars by Jon Agee, are great for little ones because they have lots of pictures. Your child will love that the books are on-theme as they build concentration, and early literacy skills.
- Paint the ceiling with planets and stars or add stickers that glow in the dark. Having these in their bedroom can help your child start to think about the night in a new way. This can be the first step to introducing the names and stories of the constellations.
- Invest in a telescope. The act of setting it up on a clear evening, when Mars, Venus or Jupiter are visible will be an especially exciting experience. Let your child view the sky with the naked eye, and compare it to the detailed view through the telescope. Watch their galactic sense of wonder unfold. If a telescope seems too cumbersome, a good pair of binoculars could do the trick too. Show them the moon and its craters, and compare it to detailed videos of the surface of the moon on YouTube. This is a good way to up your stargazing game.
- Download the Star Walk 2 - Night Sky Map app on iOS or Android. This tool helps you effortlessly pinpoint the stars in the sky above you, and navigate the other interesting bodies in the sky. Just aim your smartphone or tablet at the sky to discover planets, stars, constellations and more. A must have for space enthusiasts.
- Connectors Mission Space is a Skillmatics Educational Game that is perfect for travel or family game nights. Simply connect the space themed tiles to one another either vertically or horizontally to form a path through planets and galaxies. Your little one will love launching into space as they think & link. This is a great way to develop and hone their problem solving, logical reasoning and decision making skills, even as they develop a love for all things extraterrestrial.
- You Should Meet Mae Jemison by Laurie Calkhoven, Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed and Find the Constellations by H. A. Rey are books that strike the balance between fun and learning for this age group. Allow them to imagine themselves on their very own trip to space, as you read through these outer space adventures and explore the galaxy together.
- Check out this list of free space-themed Skillmatics Printables to keep your little ones busy. With sheets like Place the Planets and Lost in Space, they will not only become familiar with astronomical names, but also be introduced to pattern building, maze solving and other fun logical reasoning activities. Once they have filled the sheets in, take them outside to look at the night sky and see if they can relate the two. They also feature funky astronauts and rocket ships!
Once your child has started with beginner space books, you can transition them to more scientific ones like The Solar System by Emily Bone, National Geographic: Planets by Elizabeth Carney, and Demoting Pluto: The Discovery of the Dwarf Planets by Steve Kortenkamp. These fascinating reads will help further their interests, and also make academic text books less daunting in the long run. Imagine how proud your little one will be when they can raise their hand in class and answer questions about celestial bodies. There’s no end to what little ones can absorb when introduced to subjects early.
Space Explorers is a reusable activity mat that comes with Skilly Billy Dry Erase Markers, a Duster and an Achievement Certificate as a part of our Skillmatics Educational Game kit. This activity mat comes with 20 engaging and repeatable activities designed to build core skills while making learning fun. Follow satellites, astronauts, and aliens as they whizz around the Milky Way.
This is a good age to introduce your child to fun educational websites. There are plenty that carry fun games along with useful information like NASA’s Space Place, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, ESA Kids and Astropedia. The most important thing is not to underestimate your little one’s capacity for understanding the wide world of outer space.
We are now able to experience moon landings, planetary explorations, and pictures of space unlike any that have ever been seen in our history. Check out NASA kids' club which covers all things space, created for kids kindergarten-age and up. It features breathtaking images as well as at-home activities.
Eratosthenes’ story reminds us of how long humans have been looking out into space and trying to understand it. The fact that we continue to do so thousands of years later points to how vast it truly is, and how much there is yet to explore. An appreciation for outer space naturally invites a host of inquiries both scientific and philosophical, especially from questioning toddlers. Here’s a guide for quick reference:
Astronomy Cheat Sheet
Get your facts down and prepare for the many, many FAQs that kids ask.
Is the moon a planet?
Planets are celestial bodies that orbit the sun. The moon on the other hand is a big ball of rock that orbits Earth. Just FYI, the sun isn't a planet, either. It is a star burning billions of miles away, mostly made up of hydrogen and helium.
Is that a planet or a star?
Planets look a lot like stars to the naked eye. A closer look through your trusty telescope, binoculars, or star gazing app will reveal the subtle differences that you can cement further with satellite imagery. A helpful hint for stargazing is that unlike planets, stars twinkle in the night sky.
What on Earth is the Milky Way?
All of the skies we can see are part of the Milky Way, a giant, dusty band of stars that gets its name from a Greek myth about the goddess Hera. She is said to have sprayed milk across the sky, resulting in the formation of this galaxy. The Earth, and all of us, are a part of the Milky Way.
How far is Mars?
Even as there is significant buzz about launching to the red planet, explain to your little one how it isn’t as easy as it seems to get there. Astronauts undertake challenging adventures to help us learn more and more about the planets in our solar system. A spacecraft can take anywhere between 6 and 11 months to travel the 203 million miles to the red planet. Still short, compared to the 12-year-long trip needed to get from the Earth to Neptune.
Can you breathe in space?
Not unless you have a special space suit with an oxygen tank. Space acts as a vacuum that pulls air out of the lungs. Astronauts don special suits not unlike the tank a scuba diver uses to breathe underwater, in order to be able to breathe and move around in space.
Can you count all the stars in the sky?
There may be as many stars in the sky as there are grains of sand on the Earth, considering how outer space is ever expanding. The real answer may depend on your perspective on space and time. For the sake of simplification, you can tell your little one that you can see approximately 5,000 stars without a telescope. This varies depending on location, factors like light pollution, and how clear the sky happens to be.
Teaching your child through play can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to more complex subjects. We promise that your child will be full of questions of all kinds - and we’re here to help. Explore our range of age-appropriate space-themed Skillmatics Educational Games curated, designed and developed by experts to boost a love of learning. Easy out-of-the-box play is perfect for both curious children and busy parents.