I saw this video installation at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City years ago and it made me realize how mind boggling the concept and vastness of space really is. It is difficult enough for an adult to comprehend. So, how do you explain it to a small child without resorting to watching films?
For the last two years I have been doing research, searching for creative, simple ways of explaining the solar system to toddlers and preschoolers. What I have discovered is that there is a lot of information out there for school-aged kids, but very little for toddlers and preschoolers. This, of course, is developmentally understandable as most children don’t ask deep questions about space until they are in school.
However, for those of you who have small kids who ask insightful questions about our solar system and beyond, you are in the right place. And if your kids are not asking the questions yet, then bookmark this post or save it to Pinterest to encourage your child’s interest of our solar system when they are ready.
EASY SOLAR SYSTEM ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS
- Start by getting away from light pollution so that your child can look up at the sky and marvel at the stars and planets. When Adèle was 2, we took her to Uluru, in the middle of Australian bush. This is where we saw the Milky Way Galaxy for the first time. But you don’t have to travel this far to see stars. No matter where you are, I am sure you can find places near you where there is less artificial light.
- Use an apple (held by its stem) and a flashlight to explain how Earth rotates around its axis. This way you can easily illustrate what night and day really mean. When we moved from Australia to Georgia, I used this simple activity often to illustrate the time difference between these two countries and explain to Adèle why we couldn’t call family and friends at certain times of the day.
- You can pretend you are the sun and have your child (Earth) walk around you while you spin in one place. You can also do this with a bike as your child rides around you. A word of caution – it might make you feel a bit dizzy. 🙂
- Sing or read Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
- Play a dress up game by wearing clothes that resemble planet colors or play astronaut pretend dress-up games.
- Use thick paper, glue and buttons of different sizes/colors to make a solar system collage in relief.
- Take your child to an observatory or a planetarium. Many offer mini lectures on constellations and the solar system. The first time we took Adèle, she learned how we are all stardust. This idea is so poetic, and at the same time an easy way to connect your child to the universe. We have also used this concept to discuss death-related questions.
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SOLAR SYSTEM TOYS FOR TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS
- 4M Solar System Planetarium – Eight is the recommended age for this one, but Adèle was very happy to assemble it at three with some help. The Solar System Planetarium rotates and is a good way to introduce the solar system. Once your child paints the planets, they can add glow-in-the-dark paint (included) to them! I wish the Solar System Planetarium also came with Pluto. But it is still a toy worth getting since it encourages creativity, allows you to connect with your child and helps them learn something in a fun way. Because your child paints each planet, they spend a lot of time learning about them individually. For this reason, it’s a hands-on learning opportunity which is excellent both for STEM and Montessori education.
- Motorized Solar System – We rarely buy electronic toys, but this one is worth it if you want to project constellations as well.
- Giant Inflatable Solar System – Kids love balls. These ones come with a pump and can even be washed. Great for kinesthetic learners! Great for active play. Great for classrooms and group play. Plus, kids of any age can use them, and adults too, of course! You will have a lot of fun bonding with your child and learning together. This toy gets extra points for encouraging physical activity in both kids and adults! 😉
Do you have favorite solar system activities for toddlers or preschoolers? If so, please leave a comment below to share with me and our fellow readers.