Your preschooler watches Little Einsteins on a daily basis and he's seen the movie Monsters vs. Aliens at least 20 times. He may not be able to rattle off the planets in the correct order, but he at least has a basic knowledge of the solar system, right? While you can thank cartoons and movies for giving your child an idea of what aliens and rocket ships are, his knowledge may end there. Feed off your child's natural curiosity with some educational solar system activities.
1. Orbiting Planets
Introduce your little one to the idea that the planets revolve around the sun by creating a simple craft. Cut a large circle from black construction paper and cut a smaller circle from yellow paper. Use the black to represent space and the yellow to represent the sun. Stack the circles on top of each other and fasten them with a metal brad that allows the black paper to rotate. Search online for printable pictures of the planets or draw your own and allow your child to color and cut them out. Using glue, attach the planets onto the black circle so your preschooler can spin them around the sun. For a more advanced version, attach each planet to rectangular pieces of black construction paper of various lengths and glue the pieces to the main black circle so that the planets are in the correct order, with Mercury attached to the shortest piece of paper, and each other planet attached to a slightly longer piece.
2. Solar System Flash Cards
Make your own set of solar system flash cards to familiarize your preschooler with the objects in the solar system. If you are an artistic momma, draw your own objects on blank index cards. If drawing isn't your thing, print them from the computer. You can create flash cards for the planets, sun and moon. Write the name of each item on the back of the card and use them for a guessing game. By creating a double set, you can also use the cards for a matching game.
3. Space Shuttle Game
Take a trip through the solar system by helping your preschooler create his own space shuttle. Save an empty paper towel roll and paint it white. Cut a white triangle large enough to serve as wings and attach it to the tube. Create engine fire by gluing strips of red paper into the bottom end and your little astronaut is ready to launch his space shuttle. Your preschooler can use the rocket ship to play a game representing how far the moon and the various planets are from Earth. Use other round objects to represent the planets and let your little astronaut launch his shuttle from planet to planet.
4. Moon Rocks
Your little one has probably seen the moon, but he might not realize that it is part of the solar system. He may even think it's made of cheese. To help your preschooler learn about the closest body to Earth in our solar system, go outside and gather 10 to 15 rocks to use for a moon rock activity. Help your preschooler cover the rocks with aluminum foil to transform them into moon rocks. When the rocks are covered, have a scavenger hunt with your little one by hiding the rocks indoors or outside. Let him pretend to be an astronaut and see how quickly he can discover all the rocks. You can have him hop and jump as he looks for them, to pretend that he's running in the moon's low gravity.
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