Learning about the billions of galaxies, constellations, solar systems, black holes, worm holes and other celestial phenomena opens the minds of little ones and grown-ups alike, allowing all of us to appreciate the incredible beauty of the universe. Stargazing is a fun, educational activity to do with your child: next thing you know they’ll want to be an astronaut!
Here’s a brief introduction to help you explain the basics of astronomy to your kids:
There are many solar systems throughout the universe. Our solar system is made up of the Sun at the centre, orbited by eight planets (including Earth), moons, and smaller celestial bodies including asteroids, comets, and meteorites which all revolve around the Sun.
A galaxy is a gigantic collection of solar systems, stars, and planets. It is estimated that there are around 100 billion galaxies in the universe.
Planets are spherical objects that orbit a star – e.g. the Earth orbits the Sun. Planets are so large that the immediate space around them is clear of other objects.
Stars in the Sky
Nobody knows exactly how many stars there are, except to say that it is an astronomical number in each galaxy (and there are billions of galaxies!). Stars are huge, glowing balls of plasma that emit energy in the form of heat and light causing them to ‘twinkle’. The easiest star to spot is the Sun. Although it appears to be close to Earth because of its immense size and incredible brightness, the Sun is actually around 150,000,000 km away.
What Are Constellations?
A constellation is a group of stars that together form a beautiful pattern that can be seen as a picture in the sky. Scientists have given constellations different names, often based on religious mythology, or the object or animal that a constellation most resembles. Examples include:
- Kumbha, the water-pot
- Vrishabha, the bull
- Kanya, the maiden
Applying theory to practice by trying to identify patterns of stars in the sky is a great introduction to constellations for kids.
Astronomy Craft Activities
On a clear night see how many constellations you can find! Orion (the hunter) is usually the easiest to spot in the Northern hemisphere, although it can still be tricky at first, particularly if you live in a well-lit urban area. Sky maps are available online to make identifying different star constellations a little more straightforward. To make this activity even more fun, get you child to draw the stars in the sky that they’ve spotted. Then they can show their drawings to visiting family members or friends and explain what they’ve learnt about constellations.
For an extra special stars in the sky drawing get some glitter involved! Add spots of glue to your kids drawings and sprinkle glitter on top of their stars to make sure they really sparkle. You could also try making your own planets out of paper mache:
- Blow up a balloon – you can use multiple balloons for the different planets in the solar system.
- Next you’ll need newspapers torn into strips and some glue for your paper mache mix – you can use diluted PVA glue, or create your own from a ratio of three parts water to one part flour.
- Dip the strips of newspaper in the glue and apply to the balloon. Apply three layers of the strips, allowing each layer to dry in between. They don’t need to be smooth and neat as planets are textured.
- Once dry, paint your planet with a base coat. After this has dried you can work on decorating your planet with paint, glitter, and marker pens to make it look as realistic as possible.
You can also find plenty more inspiration for astronomy crafts for kids here. And, don’t worry if they get covered in glitter, paint, or glue in the process, Surf excel liquid detergent is here to help make sure their clothes are sparkling clean once again! Astronomy for kids is the first step in unravelling the mystery of space and letting kids shoot for the stars in expanding their knowledge of the universe. If you find that your child has begun to develop a real passion for celestial objects then it might be worth buying a telescope at some point to further their ambitions and open up new realms of exploration.
Did you have fun searching for constellations with your kids? Let us know how you got on with astronomy for kids in the comments box below.