Children are naturally curious about their world.
Learning about space is a fun way for kids to learn science while engaging in play, music and art. Preschoolers are used to seeing and talking about the sun and the moon, so these can provide a familiar starting point on which to build. They can pretend they are astronauts going to the moon and learn about other celestial bodies along the way. Reinforce learning by repetition and provide plenty of opportunities for kids to share their knowledge and ask questions.
Spin Like the Sun, Moon and Earth
Many children are fascinated by the moon in the night sky.
The sun, moon, and Earth are familiar to preschoolers. Explain that just like them, everything in the solar system is moving all the time. Some celestial bodies move fast and some slow. Give the examples of the sun, moon and Earth spinning. Have the kids be moving celestial bodies while music is playing in the background. Use songs that have the sun, moon or Earth in them, such as Mr. Golden Sun or Hey Diddle Diddle. For safety, make sure the room is clear and padded, as many preschoolers love to spin.
Explain that the Earth turns around the sun, and that the moon goes around the earth. To act this out, each kid can make a crown with the earth, the moon or the sun stapled to it. The crown can be as simple as a strip of construction paper stapled in a circle. As each three children spin as the earth, sun and moon, have the rest of the class sing the “Solar Bodies in Motion” song from Scholastic:
The earth turns around, the earth turns around.
Once a day, every day, the earth turns around.
The moon goes ’round the earth, the moon goes ’round the earth.
Once a month, every month, the moon goes round the earth.
The earth goes ’round the sun, the earth goes ’round the sun.
Once a year, every year, the earth goes ’round the sun.
Name the Planet
A child pretending to be Saturn can hold a ring or hold a hula hoop.
In this activity the kids learn the names and the order of the planets in our solar system. A simple name of planets chant is the center of the activity:
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars,
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune,
Pluto is the last planet.
It’s a universe fast and furious.
Each preschooler gets a popsicle stick with a photo of one of the planets taped to it. The children form a line according to the order of the planets and all sit down. The entire class chants the planets chant, and as each planet is called, the child with the photo of that planet stands up. The children particularly enjoy singing the last line loudly.
It might be difficult for the kids to say the names of the planets at first. When they are comfortable with the chant, add characteristics of planets. For example, the kid who holds the Uranus popsicle stick can bend to the side to show the planet spinning on a nearly horizontal axis. The preschooler holding Saturn can hold a hula hoop or a ring.
Be an Astronaut
Kids love to pretend they are astronauts blasting off into space.
Preschoolers love to engage in pretend play, so provide an area in which they can pretend to be astronauts. Drape a wall in black cloth or black paper, and glue photos of the plants on top. Other fun details are shiny stars, meteors and photos of the kids glued on paper stars.
Place a pretend spaceship next to the wall. The space ship is simply a large cardboard box painted silver or draped in aluminum foil. Cut an oval hole in it as a window, and shape a smaller box as the pointed top of the spaceship.
Hang astronaut clothes outside the spaceship. Use white clothes, helmets, goggles, rain boots and gloves.
Place old computer gadgets inside the box, such as a keyboard, joystick or anything with buttons to press. Take turns climbing into the spaceship, and have everyone practice saying the countdown together: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, blast off.