The night sky fascinates children and their parents with its beauty and mystery. As you gaze into the night sky with your kids, pointing out the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, their eyes fill with wonder at the vastness of the evening sky. Why not take the time to make sure your children able to find the basic constellations and planets in the night sky. Help them appreciate the wonders of the celestial bodies floating over their heads in space every night. These activities will help your kids learn about the night sky. You might just learn something yourself.
Play a game of concentration. Copy pictures of night sky objects. You will need two copies of each constellation, planets, star, etc. Glue them onto cardboard and cut them out. Play concentration, identifying each item as it is turned over. When two matching cards are turned over, the player keeps the cards and takes another turn. The player with the most matches wins the game.
Make your own constellations. Save your toilet paper and paper towel tubes. Cut round disks from black construction paper that are wide enough to cover the end of the paper tubes. Poke holes in the black paper with a tack and create the constellations like Cassiopeia, the dippers and Orion. Turn out the lights and shut the curtains. Place a flashlight in the end of each paper tube and flash it toward the ceiling. Your child should be able to identify the “stars” shining on your ceiling.
Once they know some of the basic shapes, it is time to find them in a more difficult setting. Visit Observe the Night Sky, and play “Can You Find this Constellation?” A night sky will appear on the screen. One constellation will appear in a box on the side for the kids to identify. By placing a mouse over the words “See the Constellation” and lines will be drawn to show the shapes of the constellations, making it easier to find the correct one amidst the night sky. The kids simply click on the correct constellation and a new one appears for them to find. Because the name accompanies the shape, the kids will also learn to name them correctly.
Take a trip to the backyard, or, if you live in an area with light pollution that blocks the sky, take a trip to the country. Lay a blanket on the ground and, flat on your backs, look up at the amazing stars and help your kids find the constellations in the actual sky. Because they know the shapes so well, it should be a much easier task to locate them. Point out the space station as it floats across the sky and track it.
Finally, bring out the telescopes. Even simple telescopes help your kids view the night sky more clearly. Gaze at the moon and other planets through the telescope and learn more about each one. Locate interesting objects in the sky with the bare eye and then look at them more closely through the telescope lens. If you have the chance, take the kids to visit an observatory, like Palomar, and enjoy an amazing view of the night sky.
Explain meteors and their impacts with a simple experiment. Place two inches of flour in a large cake pan. Cover it with a dusting of cocoa. Collect four different sizes of rocks beginning with a very small rock and increasing them in size. Drop them, starting with the smallest, from eye level. Watch the impact they make and the crater they create.
Learning to understand more about the night sky will enable your children to share in the wonder that has captivated man since the beginning of time. Turn their wonder into knowledge by teaching them about the night sky.