The solar system often fascinates preschoolers, especially when they learn that they actually live on one of the planets you discuss. Teachers enjoy the convenience of an art easel because it allows them to have a time of organised art. In fact, an easel is very useful for incorporating space-themed art activities for your little ones.
This craft is very simple for preschoolers, and it doesn't leave much of a mess, even at the easel. Clip a piece of white construction paper to the easel and guide students in drawing stars on it with a white crayon. (If they can't do this, an adult may need to help.) Mix 3/4 cup of black tempera paint with 1/4 cup of water (use more water if the paint is still "thick"), then show the children how to paint the paper with this wash, and the stars they (or you) drew will "magically" appear.
Cookie Cutter Starry Night
Your little ones will enjoy creating their own "galaxies" with cookie cutters. After you've secured a black piece of construction paper to the easel, provide your preschoolers with cookie cutters in the shape of stars and moons (planets would also work, if you have them). Put some white and yellow tempera paint on two different paper plates, then show your preschoolers how to "stamp" the shapes onto their papers, using the cookie cutters. Alternatively, you can use sponges that are in the shape of stars and moons (or cut out star and moon shapes from a dish-washing sponge) and let them do sponge prints instead.
Crater Moon Pictures
Preschoolers enjoy tactile activities, and this moon with "craters" will give them something three-dimensional they can feel when it's complete. Draw a large circle onto waxed paper (you can trace an old DVD or CD, or use a protractor). Let your little ones cut this out (or have an adult do that), then hand it to them and instruct them to crumple it up as tight as they can. Have them open it back up, then glue it onto black construction paper that's been fastened to the easel. This will serve as a moon with bumpy "craters." While that's drying, they can put star-shaped stickers on the area around the moon and draw white stars on the paper, using chalk.
Glow-in-the-dark Solar System
It isn't often that little ones are told to paint on clothes or other fabrics, but with this craft, they'll get to do just that. This craft requires some teacher preparation, so you may want to enlist the help of an assistant. Before class, cut out one piece of black fabric 12 inches by 18 inches (100 per cent cotton will be fine, but velvet or velour has a nice feel to it, especially for preschoolers) for each child. Also, outline various sized circles onto the fabric, using glow fabric paint in any colours you choose. These circles will represent planets, so you may want to vary the sizes from 1 inch up to 4 inches. During class, clip the fabric to the easel and show the students how to paint the insides of the circles using the glow fabric paint. When they're done, show them how to dab the eraser of a pencil into green glow paint and then put dots on their fabric, surrounding the planets, to represent stars. When this has dried, they'll have a nice glow-in-the-dark wall hanging for their bedrooms.
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