One of the greatest challenges this summer has been finding activities that my son who is going into first grade and my daughter who just turned 3 will both love. When I suggested we make a glow in the dark paintings after seeing the stars out on 4th of July ( they aren’t normally awake late enough to see any! ) they both thought it was a cool idea. These glow in the dark stars paintings are really easy to make and despite being locked out of our house for hours in the middle of making them we still had a great time. And they really do glow in the dark !
- Gather your materials. You will need a canvas, black acrylic paint, glow in the dark paint , paint brushes ( the bigger the better ), paper plates, and star stickers. You will also want wipes or a wet cloth and a good drop cloth when working with non washable paints.
- Pour the paint on to a paper plate . I like using big brushes when the goal is coverage. With 3 year olds making the activity attainable is key to making it a success. Paint your whole canvas with the glow in the dark paint. My daughter started then we realized we were locked out of our house ( without shoes and I was in PJs ) so we took a 2 hour break while we tried to find an open window gave up and went to the safety of a neighbors to call a locksmith.
- Add stickers when the canvases are dry. My daughter did a random smattering of stars and I helped her make sure they were all pressed on and my son made a constellation.
- Add the black paint. My son helped his sister and to my surprise she let him. This picture is what I love most about crafts, just doing something together with family. Let dry to the touch. The stars peel off easier if they aren’t 100% dry.
- Carefully peel the stars off. This never gets old for my kids. They love seeing the shapes emerge. Leave the paintings out in the sun to dry 100%.
- Find a dark room and watch them glow – sorry for the bad picture but my inexpensive camera isn’t great for glow in the dark. Trust me it was cool! Pop them in your kids bedrooms to see the stars every night.
Books About Stars
Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle is often not read in classrooms simply because of a depiction of a naked man and woman. It’s not what most parents expect to find in an Eric Carle book but it is very fitting in this beautiful and really touching book. The story although very similar to a biblical creation story isn’t necessarily reflective only of a christian view point , rather as I read it is was the author’s own creation. It begins and ends with a star , and hits all the right points in between.
Stargazers by Gail Gibbons is a good choice of book to teach about stars, constellations, telescopes and more. My son sat listening to this book and every now and then was engaged but it was a bit lengthy and a little too in depth for him ( he’s almost 3) however the book is great , it explains complicated scientific information in a really accessible way. I even learned a few new things about telescopes! I will be taking this book out of the library again for sure when my son is a little older.
Our Stars by Anne Rockwell is another wonderful non fiction book from this author illustrator. The book shares the most basic facts about stars with the reader as well as more complicated facts about constellations, comets and meteors. I love that the facts are shared pretty independently on each page, so if something is above your toddlers head you can simply skip that page, until they are . The illustrations are fun enough to grab attention but detailed enough to help explain the facts being presented.This post contains affiliate links.
This simple alphabet activity is a snap to put together and combines fine motor development and letter recognition . I did this with my daughter who just turned 3 , older children could be encouraged to not only add the stars but to also write the letters or whole words. This is part of our Alphabet For Starters series of posts that aim to introduce and play with letters in a fun creative way without pressure. Children learn best when they are free to explore and make positive connections with material and these activities aim to do that . You can see our other posts here.
- Gather your materials. You will need some black construction paper , chalk in various colors ( although just white would be a OK ), some star stickers and scissors.
- Start by cutting your paper into smaller pieces. Write letters on the paper using the chalk. You can do this dry or wet for a more vibrant color. I made a handful of letters , some my daughter is very familiar with ( letters in her name) some she doesn’t see as often.
- Present all the letters and stickers to your child. Explain what a constellation is and that you’d be making them with letters. The way I explained it to my daughter was that they are shapes and drawings made when you connect the stars in the sky with pretend lines. I didn’t go into it any deeper than that for her but with an older child you absolutely could.
- Add the stars. For her age just peeling them off was hard work as was carefully placing them on the letter. Encourage and praise but make sure it’s not empty. I naturally say “Good job” a lot and have been trying to use more specific praise instead. Saying things like ” You worked hard to get that sticker off. ” is much more beneficial than an empty ” Good job!”
- She happily made 3 letters and I didn’t push her to make more. Instead I placed them together with the stickers on a tray and made sure they were accessible for her to make more when she chose to.
Space Themed Alphabet Book
A Is for Astronaut: Exploring Space from A to Z by Traci N. Todd is a typical themed alphabet book that is atypically funky. The vintage illustrations and historical photos from NASA makes this book stand out from other similar books. Each letter represents a number of space related items and the historical photos are so powerful in this because it bridges the gap from being a story to being information that children are eager to dive into further. There is something so powerful about a photograph to make that connection that this really happened, these guys really walked on the moon in ” the olden days” as my son calls any time before his birth in 2006.This post contains an affiliate link
Stars , space and rockets are a theme that has never really lost it’s luster at our house. My son who is 5 1/2 is not as keen on sensory tubs as he once was ( or so I thought) so I set this one up with a little reading and matching activity. If I was doing this for younger kids I would have a few rocket ships and a few cups for pouring and transferring and skip the matching activity completely. As it turned out I misjudged my son and you will see that even at 5 1/2 that simple is wonderful.It’s great for space themes, learning about shapes and even fine motor practice!
- Gather your materials. For the sensory tub you will need dried black beans, bright star buttons and some tools like spoons and containers to dig and pour. For the matching activity I also used a chocolate box liner, some paper, scissors and marker.
- Pour the beans and the buttons in. You could add sparkles but you will never be able to use the beans for another non sparkly tub again and cleaning it off the buttons if you want will be impossible. I like to re-use my sensory tub innards so we kept it simple.
- If you want to make the matching container you can do it a few ways. For my son I wrote the words including light and dark blue and hot pink because we’ve been talking about different shades of colors. For pre readers simply use a marker in each color to write the word.
- Other than setting up I just let him go. He read all the words to start.
- Then got down to business sorting and matching. Don’t be surprised if they start counting while they sort. Everything is a competition at our house right now and so as he was sorting he was keeping me updated to which color was in the lead.
- After he’d had enough he filled the extra squares with beans using his hands , then grabbed a spoon, dumped the buttons out and and started carefully scooping the into the little squares one by one.
- Then we got a big container and filled it ( with the pot from our play kitchen) so his little sister could enjoy the stars too. She loves rolling it around and how loud it is when she does.
So even though I had a more directed activity ready I am thrilled he used it as a start but then directed the rest himself. I am just glad we had all the tools he needed.
Space is such a fun theme to use for play, crafts and of course learning. Here are some of our favorite space themed crafts that we have done over the years. We have lots of space themed books too.
Make Your Own Constellation
Puffy Paint Moon
Hand Print Sun
Soft and Shiny Rocket
Paper Plate Planet
Sponge Painted Stars
Click the image for detailed reviews of the space books.
Creating your very own planet can be a quick art project or a much more involved one with reading and writing too. This simple project combines so many lessons including shapes, space, as well as writing and spelling. Oh and for those of you afraid of mess , especially glitter mess – stick on glitter foam was made for you. It’s all the bling with none of the mess.
- Gather your materials. You will need a paper plate, various shapes of peel and stick glitter foam ( I pre cut a whole bunch for easy projects), markers, a piece of plain old paper, pencil, and tape.
- Make some shapes out of the foam.
- Start by creating your planet with the foam and markers. My thought when I brainstormed this activity was that my son would make a mosaic like planet with all the pieces. Instead as he was making it he was deciding what each piece of foam would be . Rivers, lakes, a pit of lava, and an dark and scary forest were all added among other things.
- While they create the look of the planet write out a short questionnaire for them to fill in about their planet. I asked 3 simple questions , keeping it short to entice him to write the answers himself. The questions included naming the planet, how many moons it has and how long it takes to get to the planet from Earth.
- It worked he was excited to try ,he asked me to write the words after. Do not correct your child if they are at the beginning stages of writing especially if they are at all reluctant. Correcting them can be seen as a further proof that writing is too hard and their attempts may become fewer and further between, which is not what we want! If they ask for you to help jump in slowly .
- Tape the information on the inside . When he showed it off to his dad at dinner, he read the inside and said ” I didn’t write Cybertron, it was too long and I didn’t have enough room, but I did the numbers!” Oops, next time I will make the writing area even bigger, to make it more welcoming for big emergent writer handwriting.
Books About Space
If You Decide To Go To The Moon by Faith McNulty was not what I expected, but what is that they say about judging a book by it’s cover? Yeah. I enjoyed the book but it was really long, even I was sorta wondering ” How much more?” half way through. However when I finished the book I was glad I read it all and the huge amount of information inside. The book is truly packed with information about space travel and the environment on the moon, for 3-4 year olds I would read it in parts, perhaps throughout the same day but I don’t think many would sit with full attention for this whole book. Older kids should have no problem especially if they are interested in space. Older children will also appreciate the message that we need to keep Earth healthy so our planet remains vibrant and full of life and not cold, dusty and still like the moon.
Another Day in the Milky Way by David Milgrim made me giggle. The story is about a little boy who is stranded on a weird planet where things are very strange and he doesn’t know how to get home. It’s never scary because it’s simply too weird to ever get scary. People with too many arms, donkeys and chickens dressed as horses and finally the realization that it’s all a dream. The humor was rather dry although kids will probably take it as goofy . My favorite part was the little alien dog that transforms into a regular one in the end of the book when the little boy wakes up.
A Is for Astronaut: Exploring Space from A to Z by Traci N. Todd is a typical themed alphabet book that is atypically funky. The vintage illustrations and historical photos from NASA makes this book stand out from other similar books. Each letter represents a number of space related items and the historical photos are so powerful in this because it bridges the gap from being a story to being information that children are eager to dive into further. There is something so powerful about a photograph to make that connection that this really happened, these guys really walked on the moon in ” the olden days” as my son calls any time before his birth in 2006.