Space…The Final Frontier

I don’t know anyone (especially kids) who isn’t fascinated by space. I mean is there anything more humbling than to look up at the vast spread of the heavens God created- all whirling stars and planets- and to ponder just how small we are? I can’t think of anything, especially when you get into the details of it… I mean technically things in space are so far away you’re looking back in time when you view the night sky because it takes the light so long to travel to our eyes- even the closest star, Proixma Centauri (most searches will say it’s Alpha Centauri, but that’s actually a star system. Proxima Centauri is the dimmest of the 3 stars it contains and is the closest to our Sun…which by the way is also a star), is over 4 light years away, meaning the light we see from it is technically from 4 years ago! Fun fact: many star systems are actually binary (as opposed to our Sun, which is singular), which means when the suns set on Tatooine in Star Wars, they’re actually being scientifically accurate (although it is harder for planets to form around binary star systems compared to singular ones)! Like I said, space is just so fascinating! My little has been interested in space for a year or two, so I knew this was a learning topic we had to explore! Don’t forget to zoom on over to my toddler post “3, 2, 1 BLAST OFF!” for more fun space themed ideas, like “moon dust” sensory play and DIY moon rocks.

Literacy:

-Solar system song: Each day during calendar time, we sang this little song I wrote to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.

-Moon rock rhyming toss: This idea was so cute and fun- my little loved it! You just print and cut out some rhyming words (I chose to do the -un family and -ar family to rhyme with sun and star), crumple up some tin foil into balls (aka moon rocks), hot glue a word to each ball, then tape each of the base words (Sun and star) to a container. Then, have your little “read” each word (I helped because the pictures were a tad obscure at times), figure out what family it belongs to and toss it into the correct container (ie. car would be tossed into the star container because they rhyme). I got this idea from Mrs. Plemon’s Kindergarten.

-Solar system letter sound match: I printed out pictures of the Sun and planets then glued them on squares of black construction paper and laminated them. Then I made matching cards with the first letter of each planet on them. I had my little help me put them in the correct order using questioning/beginning sounds (ie. Next comes…..Merrrrrr…. and he’d say Mercury!). Then I had him identify and match the beginning letter to each planet (ie. N for Neptune).

-“8 Little Planets” and punch-a-bunch questions: We read the story “8 Little Planets” then I printed these comprehension questions based on the book, placed them in paper bowls, and covered them with tissue paper to make “punch-a-bunches”. I hung them on the wall with packing tape, then had my littles take turns punching them open and getting out each question. Then my preschooler answered the questions based on the book.

-Q is for quasar, U is for Uranus: I made some handwriting practice pages for the letters Q and U by writing the numbers with dots, tucking them in page protectors, and having my little practice writing the letters with a dry erase marker. (Pardon the picture of the U page- I forgot to take a picture and he had already completed the Q page on the other side so it got partially erased in the process! LoL)

-Space reading list: we have about a million space books, but these are my favorite!

Math:

-Planet number tracing: Since the planets orbit the Sun in a particular order, it’s super easy to assign each one a number and use it for number practice! I printed a few space worksheets from Teachers Pay Teachers for this activity. The first page we did was the one where my little had to trace the numbers and first letters of each planet. Then we used that page as a guide to connect the planet to the correct number on the second page (ie. Mercury is the first planet, so that goes with number 1. For this page I had to write the numbers down out of order for my little to find, but it only took a second!)

-3, 2, 1 Blastoff! number tracing: I printed this counting down number tracing activity from Teachers Pay Teachers, then had my little practice identifying and writing each number.

-Star sticker counting book: I stapled together some black sheets of paper to make mini-books, then wrote the numbers 1-10 with one number on each page. Then I had my little identify each number and stick star stickers on each page to match the number.

-Star ice cube roll and count: I had my little roll a 12 sided dice (10 sided would work too!), then count out that amount of star reusable ice cubes we had on hand. Star cut outs, star beads or foam stars would work great too! We took turns to make it more fun and game-like!

Science:

-Space KL chart: Before we started our week, I had my little tell me what he already knew about space. At the end of our learning, I had him tell me what new things he learned. This is a great way to activate prior knowledge in children, which helps their brain connect to and remember new information better. It’s also a great way to assess what they’ve learned during a unit!

-Solar system model: I don’t think space week would be complete without making some sort of model of the solar system! You can totally do a free one by printing out planets, having your little color and cut them out, then glue them on black paper- but for $10 I thought this 3D solar system kit was much more fun! My only complaint was that the Uranus and Neptune in the kit were completely out of whack size-wise…they were the same size as the first 4 planets (which PS aren’t all the same size either…but I digress!) We just used some ping pong balls we had on hand for the last 2 planets, and that did the trick! (You can get other kits with more accurately sized foam balls, but I liked how this one had rings on Saturn and a fun shaped Sun!) So basically- to do this we googled what each planet looks like in real life, then my little painted them according to their color. Next, I hot glued them on a piece of black poster board and labeled them. He added some star stickers as a final touch- and now it hangs in our playroom/schoolroom!

-DIY constellation projector: This activity was so much fun and fairly easy to set up! You just trace the end of a flashlight on cardstock and cut out several circles from it. Then use a pen or sharp pencil to poke holes in the circles to make different constellations. When you’re through, go in your darkest room (we chose the laundry room since it has no windows), place the circle over the end of your light, and shine it on the wall or ceiling. The light should only shine through the holes, making a constellation on your wall! I explained to my littles what a constellation was before we began, and as we went through each one, I showed them how you can connect the “dots” (or stars) to make a picture. I got this idea from Hand Made Charlotte.

The Big Dipper

-Moon phase demonstration: It’s really hard to imagine how exactly the moon changes shape until you do this demonstration- it’s SO cool! If you follow Little Loves and Learning on Facebook, I posted a video of it there for everyone! So, for the demo I put a foam ball on a stick, shut off all the lights, and turned on a single lamp. I had my little sit in my lap so he could see what was going on clearly. Then I explained to him that his head was Earth, the ball was the moon, and the lamp was the sun. I slowly rotated the “moon” around us (it has to be held above your head or your shadow will prevent the demonstration from working) and talked to him about the shadow and reflected “sunlight” that was visible on the ball, and how that was what made the moon change shape throughout the month. We also went over the names of the moon phases as it orbited us. Then I gave him the ball on the stick and let him try it himself!

-Moon phase oreos: I broke 3 Oreos in half then cut the frosting to make moon phases (we just stuck to new moon, first quarter, full moon, third quarter for simplicity’s sake- I didn’t think getting into waxing gibbous and so on was appropriate as an introduction to the topic! LoL Simple to complex…right?) then told my little what each phase was called. We also discussed how the moon can be a crescent shape and how it gets bigger and smaller again as it goes around Earth, and how it doesn’t make its own light, but reflects the Sun’s. I got this idea from The Measured Mom.

Art:

-Constellation art: I did this activity right after we did our DIY constellation projector (the first activity in the science section above) since they go together so well! You draw a constellation on a sheet of black paper by drawing dots (stars) and lines with a white crayon or colored pencil. Then have your little create the constellation by placing stars on the dots. I got this idea from The Measured Mom.

-Marbled planets: This process art was a lot of fun (and less messy than I thought it would be, so don’t be scared! LoL) So you take liquid starch and just cover the bottom of a pie pan with it (I just made my own by boiling 3 3/4 cups of water, mixing 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water, adding it to the boiling water then letting it cool- thank you 30 Seconds for saving our project because I totally forgot to buy liquid starch!) Then, mix about 2 tablespoons of paint with a tablespoon of water (to make it easier to pick up with a pipette/dropper)- I did different colors in small baby food containers we had on hand. Then, let your little drop and swirl the paint into the pie pan to their heart’s content. When they’re done exploring (that part alone was actually pretty cool!), carefully place a cut out circle of cardstock in the pan for 30 seconds. Then gently remove it and place it on a sheet of wax paper to dry. We experimented with letting our circles float on top of the starch and pushing them to the bottom and both methods came out cool! I got this idea from Everyday Chaos and Calm.

Supply/shopping list:

  • tin foil
  • Liquid starch
  • pie pan
  • small cups
  • dropper
  • bowls
  • tissue paper
  • “8 Little Planets”
  • star stickers
  • star ice cubes or foam pieces
  • Oreos
  • flashlight
  • foam ball
  • lamp
  • popsicle stick
  • solar system model kit
  • black poster board

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