Most kids are endlessly fascinated with space. It captures their imagination and opens their eyes to the universe and our place in it.
Space is an excellent way to get kids interested in science and to show them just how cool the subject can be.
Doing the right space-themed activities with your children won’t even feel like learning! We’ve rounded up some of the best ways you can explore space at home with your kids — including making your own rotating solar system model.
How to explore space at home with children
Space is awesome because it’s a lot less abstract than some other science topics. Kids can just look up and see it: the moon, the stars, the sun — even some planets and the space station on a clear night!
Here’s how to take advantage of your child’s fascination and explore space together from your own home.
If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with low light pollution, you can just step outside at night and gaze up at a sky full of stars. Mars and Venus are often visible to the naked eye, and some extra-bright stars can be seen even from populated cities.
You could get a low-cost kids’ telescope to get a closer look at it all, and try to spot constellations and planets. A trip to the observatory is also a great way to learn more about stargazing from home. Or, check out our earlier blog post for a cool free stargazing app to download too!
Feed your child’s curiosity by letting them dictate what they want to learn. Maybe they’re interested in planets and stars or maybe they’re more excited by space exploration and NASA programs.
We’ve got a whole database of space-themed worksheets full of facts and activities. Maybe they’ll be drawn to this bundle about the moon landing? Or perhaps this one, all about how stars are born and the constellations they form.
Encourage your kids to draw what they see in the sky above them. Figure out which way is north, then draw the sky as a circle and fill in all the stars and constellations they can spot.
Return to the drawing in a few months and see how the stars seem to have shifted position as the Earth moves in orbit. If you have friends or relatives in a different hemisphere, you could compare the different constellations you each see!
Build your own model
Having a model of our solar system makes it so much easier to teach and understand, especially if your children are visual or tactile learners. Plus, it’s a lot simpler to make than you’d expect. A perfect rainy afternoon activity to do with your kids.
How to make a rotating solar system model
Making a model with movable planets is a great way to visualize how everything in our solar system orbits the sun.
Here’s how to do it.
Gather nine styrofoam balls of different sizes. One big one for the sun, and varying sizes for all the other planets. If you can only find one size, that’s fine! It doesn’t need to be exact.
Paint the balls so each one looks like a different planet: yellow for the sun, green and blue for Earth, red for Mars, etc. Stick a wooden skewer into each ball to hold it as you paint. For Saturn, cut a donut shape out of cardboard, or use a pipe cleaner to make the rings!
Cut a large piece of thick cardboard into a circle. The bigger the better, but aim for at least one foot across. The base of a frozen pizza is perfect.
Poke a hole right in the middle of the circle, then use a compass (the kind for drawing, not navigating!) to draw concentric circles around this point.
These are the orbits of the eight planets. The first four planets orbit pretty close to the sun, then there’s a gap for the asteroid belt. The remaining four planets orbit a little farther out, so draw your circles accordingly.
Using a nail or the tip of sharp scissors, poke eight more holes in the cardboard, one along each orbit line. Space the holes out around the circle. You’ll be hanging the planets from these holes, so you don’t want them too close together.
Cut a length of string into nine equal pieces, each around a foot long. Tape one end of each string to one of your planets, and thread the other end through the nine cardboard holes. Tie a knot to keep it in place.
The sun should be in the center, followed by Mercury, then Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Take three pieces of string, each about one foot long, and tape these at equal intervals around the top of your cardboard circle. Tie the tops of these to one long piece of string, which you can use to hang up your model.
Slowly rotate the large cardboard circle with your hands and you’ll see all the planets orbit around the sun.
Here are some diagrams to help you with building the model in case you get stuck.
How to make a rotating solar system model with an old turntable
Want to take it to the next level? If you’ve got an old record player, you can use that to make a solar system model that rotates on its own:
- Take a thick piece of dowel and drill a hole into the end of it so that it can stand upright on the turntable spindle. Use hot-glue to make it more stable.
- Then drill four holes through the body of the dowel at varying points.
- Thread wooden skewers through these holes and attach your planets to the end of each.
- Drill a hole into your sun and glue the vertical dowel rod into it so it sits at the top.
Now, turn on the record player and watch the planets orbit around the sun, which will rotate as well! If you get lost, check out these in-depth instructions.
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Link will appear as Exploring Space at Home – How to Make a Rotating Solar System Model: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 14, 2020