Listen closely to preschoolers at playtime--you may find they're often commandeering a make-believe spaceship to travel through some otherworldly portal for an out-of-this-world space adventure. Kids also enjoy fictional depictions of outer space in movies and books. Harness this playful interest in the mysteries of the universe by introducing the youngsters in your care to some of the fascinating facts about space.
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Teach prekindergarten-age children the names of the eight planets in our solar system. Borrow library books that contain photographs of the planets. Name them and explain that, in our solar system, Earth is the only planet capable of sustaining life. Cut circles from construction paper and ask each child to choose a favourite planet. Make sure that all eight planets are chosen at least once. Give the children crayons to colour their circles to resemble the planet of their choice. As the children colour, teach them facts about each of the planets. Help the children write the name of their planet on an index card. Punch a hole one inch from the edge of the top of the planet and attach a 6-inch length of yarn. Punch another hole one inch from the centre of the bottom of the index card bearing the planet's name, and tie the loose end of the yarn to it. Display the paper planets on a notice board.
Make a universe in a baby food jar with preschoolers as young as two. This craft requires a clean glass baby food jar with a lid for each child. Paint the lids black and allow them to dry. Let each child place three sequins in her jar. You can buy sequins in the shapes of the sun, moon and stars where craft supplies are sold. Cut three 1-inch square pieces of foil for each child and instruct him to roll the foil bits into tiny balls, then place the foil balls in the jars. Measure 1/8 tsp of any colour of glitter into each jar, then fill the jars to the bottom rim with water. Let the children add a drop of blue food colour to the water, but be careful with the food colour--it stains clothing. Brush glue onto the inside of the jar lid, and screw the lid onto the jar. Shake the jar to watch the planets, stars and moon swirl around the little universe.
Teach preschoolers of all ages that people explore space and have landed on the moon. To make a model of the surface of the moon, give each child a 340gr styrofoam salad bowl turned upside down. Give the children glue and cotton balls, dry beans and water bottle lids from the recycling bin. Let the children glue the objects onto the inverted bowls. When dry, give each child a sheet of foil that is big enough to fit over the bowl. Help the children mould and press the foil onto the bowl and the glued-on objects. The bowl will have a bumpy surface like that of the moon. Let each child stick an American flag on a toothpick (available at party supply stores) onto their moon.
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