For families, stargazing can be as simple as grabbing a blanket and lying out in the cool night air. Some kids will be content to lie close and just take in the twinkling sights above. Others will have a million questions. From any vantage point—a bedroom window or the great outdoors—all children can enjoy stargazing.
A Little Astronomy Lesson
Stars are actually individual suns so many light years away that they look like tiny specks of brightness. A unit of measurement used by astronomers, a light year is the distance light travels in one year; one light year is almost six trillion miles.
To enhance a young child's enjoyment of the starry sky—a magical sight—try boning up on the constellations. There are many wonderful reference manuals available to help you and your children connect the dots, so to speak. Try a few of these books to find such kid favorites as the Big and Little Dippers, Polaris (the North Star), and Orion:
- Find the Constellations, by H.A. Rey
- The Glow-in-the-Dark Night Sky Book, by Clint Hatchett
- Glow-in-the-Dark Constellations, by C.E. Thompson
- 365 Starry Nights, by Chet Raymo
A Constellation of Crafts
Star Light, Star Bright:
Here's a homemade toy that will bottle up the night sky for kids to enjoy any time of day. Get a small, clear plastic water bottle. Fill it two-thirds full with mineral oil. Add star sequins (found in art and craft stores) and silver glitter. Pour in water until the jar is full. Drop in a little blue food coloring if you wish. Run a line of heavy-duty glue around the inside of the lid and screw the lid onto the bottle tightly. As your child shakes the bottle, he can watch the stars twinkle as they fall.
As you research the constellations, help your children attach sticker stars in the patterns of their favorite constellations to a sheet of black poster board. Attach the poster to the underside of a card table. Darken the "sky" by draping a large cloth over the card table. Children will enjoy crawling under the table, lying on their backs, and viewing the star formations (with the help of a flashlight).
Another kind of planetarium can be made using an empty milk carton. Using a pin, pierce holes in the bottom of the carton in the pattern of a famous constellation. Place a flashlight inside the carton and aim it at the ceiling in a dark room. Kids will enjoy watching the patterns grace their very own home!
Star Light Poem Craft:
This simple craft helps children learn the poem "Star Light, Star Bright" as they record their secret, fondest wish. First, print the poem on a sheet of white paper. Then, cut the figure of a star from a piece of yellow construction paper. Glue the poem at the bottom of a sheet of dark blue construction paper. Fold the star in half and glue only the top ray toward the top of the blue paper. Write "I Wish" on the front of the star. Ask your child what she wishes for and write her wish on the inside of the folded star. Don't forget to look at the stars that night and say the poem!
Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight!