Not only are twinkling stars and the ever-changing moon fascinating to watch, but looking up at the night skies from your backyard or local park is the perfect way to spark your little one’s curiosity and imagination about the world beyond our planet.
Kids are observant and quick to learn, and although space and space exploration might seem like complex topics, you can introduce your child to basic concepts in fun and simple ways from an early age.
Fun ways to teach your child about space
Space offers endless possibilities for learning and exploration. By engaging your child in fun activities, you can encourage a life-long interest in learning more about this fascinating subject. Let’s take a look at some activities that will introduce your kids to our galaxy and worlds beyond it.
From setting up the perfect spot for star-gazing, art, and craft space-themed activities to STEM space projects, you will find suggestions to bring the wonders of space a little bit closer to home.
Space activities for kids
Before embarking on other space activities, you might want to introduce your child to the starry sky.
To transform your backyard or a nearby park into a mini planetarium, place a waterproof sheet on the ground and cover it with some soft blankets and fluffy pillows. If you have sleeping bags, you can include those, too. Cover your flashlight with red cellophane or use a red filter to help everyone’s eyes adjust to the nighttime light. Also, bring along a pair or two of binoculars.
At the new moon, when it’s darkest, you will be able to see the most stars and can look for shooting stars, satellites, and even the International Space Station (ISS). During the full moon, you can use binoculars for a closer look at the craters and markings.
There are some great free star-gazing apps that can be loaded onto your phone to help you identify planets and constellations. Star Walk 2 and Star Tracker are 2 such apps, and they are available for both iOS and Android devices.
If you live in an area with a lot of light pollution or want to keep your activities on wintery days, the Discovery Mindblown Space Projector will allow your kids to explore the wonders of the universe in the living room or the bedroom.
Space-themed arts and craft activities
The following list contains 4 imagination-boosting activities for kids aged 4+. Adult supervision is required as some activities call for the use of scissors and glue, while others may use small items that could pose a choking hazard.
1. Make moon dust or fizzing moon rocks
These are great tactile space activities for kindergarteners. Using basic items found in the kitchen, your kids can explore the “moon surface.” You can add LEGO characters or small toy trucks to create a lunar landscape.
2. Build a jet pack
If you have a couple of 2L empty plastic soda bottles, glue, and some colorful cardboard, you can make a jetpack with your astronaut or space explorer-in-training.
You can watch a 5-minute tutorial for this fun activity here:
3. Make a solar system
If you have Play-Doh at home, you can make a solar system in next to no time.
If creating a 3-dimensional solar system mobile is more your thing, there are many ways to do this depending on your child’s age and the materials you have on hand. Take a look at these YouTube videos for some ideas.
The Original Stationery Mini Galaxy 3D Solar System is an air dry clay kit perfect for this project.
4. Explore moon phases using Oreo cookies
No fun activity list is complete without something tasty. Using Oreos, you can create moon phase cookies with your kindergartener. Simply open the cookies and use a teaspoon to help your child scrape the icing to create the various phases. Alternatively, use Maria’s or any other round flat cookie and white icing to create the moon phases. You can also mix up a batch of differently colored icings and use them to make all the planets in our solar system.
STEM space activities and projects for kids
When we think of space, we invariably think of rockets and spaceships as well. Here are 4 activities to excite your little space explorer:
1. Balloon rocket STEM activity
Using a pack of balloons, let your child guess how much air needs to be in a balloon to propel it across the room. You can even make a moon target and pin it to the wall to see whether your balloon rocket reaches its destination.
This activity demonstrates principles of propulsion, force, and other physics of motion and allows experimentation with these principles.
Safety warning: balloons are a choking hazard. Don’t let a child play with balloons unsupervised and dispose of any broken balloons immediately.
2. Space docking challenge
If you have 2 or more kids playing together, you can give them some insight into how difficult it is to dock a space station. This activity requires both teamwork and coordination.
Attach a small toy such as a LEGO airplane or toy car to 2 pieces of string or rope (size dependent on the age of the kids). Tie the other ends loosely around the children’s waists. Let the kids maneuver the “shuttle” until it “docks” safely in a cup or tub. You can increase the difficulty of the activity by having ropes of different lengths for each child.
The space docking challenge demonstrates Newton’s laws of motion and the principle of cause of effect, showing kids that coordinated teamwork results in precision and success.
3. Launch a rocket
Using 4 wooden or PVC sticks, a plastic soda bottle, a rubber stopper or cork, vinegar, and baking soda, you can have your own rocket launch!
This activity encompasses a number of STEM concepts, including engineering (design) and mathematics (measuring), chemical reactions, and physics (when released, pressure causes thrust and motion).
Safety warning: remember that this “explosion” may be forceful. Make sure to stand well back and keep small children at a safe distance.
4. The crater experiment
For younger scientists, you can use flour or the “moon dust” you made earlier to demonstrate how craters are formed on the moon.
For the crater experiment, fill a shallow container with flour or “moon dust.” Sprinkle a light layer of cocoa over the flour. Use small pebbles or marbles of different sizes and drop them into the container to create “craters.” You can also use a single marble or pebble and drop it from different heights to create craters of different sizes.
This simple activity demonstrates how energy is dispersed upon impact and how meteors create craters.
Items for outer space activities
If you’re looking for other toys, equipment, and activities that will encourage your child to learn more about outer space and our solar system, you might like these items:
- The Space Explorer STEM Box includes 6 fun activities that encourage imaginative learning and practical skills.
- The Solar System Outer Space Exploration Kit is great for slightly older kids (up to age 12) and includes 17 STEM projects to bring the excitement of space to life.
- This 35 piece Outer Space Felt Board is perfect for your kindergartener and will provide hours of interactive space fun.
- Bill Nye’s interactive virtual reality science kit is targeted at kids age 8 and above and fosters learning through play. It includes a 96-page project book, 128 virtual and augmented reality experiences, and 15 hands-on crafts and activities.
- Kids who are curious about Mars exploration will love the Ciro 12-in-1 Solar Robot Toys. They can build their own solar-powered planetary rover. Here’s more about robot toys for kids.
- Telescopes bring space closer. Depending on your budget and your child’s age and level of interest, a variety of telescopes for kids and beginner astronomers can be found here and here.
Kids who engage in STEM activities in early childhood are more likely to retain their curiosity and interest in these fields throughout their school years. Space is fascinating for young and old alike, and these activities and kits make learning about our universe fun and exciting.