From the blazing heat of the sun to the silvery glow of the moon, the sky is a constant source of mystery to young children. Not only do these celestial bodies move across the sky, the moon changes shape from week to week. If your little astronomer is fascinated by the sun, the Earth and the moon, inspire her with activities that combine learning and creativity.
Cut a large circle out of yellow paper. Discuss with your little one the ways that the sun helps us, such as by providing light and warmth, and allowing our food to grow, and ask her to illustrate each one on a thin rectangle of yellow paper that can be attached to the circle to create the sun's rays. Have your child use yellow and orange markers to color in a white circular coffee filter, leaving no blank spots. Give her a paintbrush and a container of water and invite her to brush water over the filter, creating a translucent, tie-dye sun catcher to display in the window. Or cut a piece of contact paper into a sun shape and place it sticky-side up on a table. Have your child cover it in pieces of orange, yellow and red tissue paper for a sun mosaic.
Point out the moon's changing shape to your child when you are out at night. Make simple drawings of the phases of the moon and ask your child to put them in order and staple them together to make a book. Or bake sugar cookies and cut them into the various shapes of the moon for a delicious moon lesson. Have your child draw the moon's portrait in white or silver crayon on a thick piece of paper and then paint over it with dark blue watercolors. The wax from the crayon will resist the paint, creating a magical night scene.
The Earth is unique among the planets of our solar system because it can support complex life. Discuss with your child simple ways to take care of the planet, including recycling and reusing containers and paper. Make a pencil holder out of an old jar by gluing, using nontoxic school glue, colorful strips of paper onto it. Cut a cereal box in half horizontally and ask your child to decorate it with paint to create a magazine holder. For a tasty way to celebrate the Earth, make cupcakes or cookies and use blue and green frosting to make them look like our planet.
Illustrate how the sun, moon and the Earth fit together with a visit to a planetarium or science museum. Invite your child to put together a large floor puzzle of the solar system, such as the 48-piece solar system floor puzzle by the Melissa & Doug online store. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration blog suggests a craft using paper plates and brads to illustrate the relationship between the sun, the Earth and the moon. Simplify this project for your young child by including only the Earth and the sun. Cut out a circle from one of the paper plates that is about 2 inches in diameter and have you child color it blue and green to represent the Earth. Ask her to color another entire paper plate yellow for the sun. Cut out a thin strip of card stock that is about ten inches long and attach it to the back of the sun using a brad piercing the center of the plate. Connect the other end of the strip to the center of the Earth with a brad and move the Earth around the sun to simulate the planet's orbit.