One of my favorite things about winter is how bright and clear the stars shine. Orion is easy to spot, guarding the night sky and pointing the way to the the winter constellations.
Thankfully, my boys also share a love of astronomy, which means we’ve spent plenty of time on this subject over the past few terms. So today, I’m sharing a roundup of the night sky activities we’ve enjoyed so far:
Paint the Moon
This one is up there in terms of a fun, simple activity that is also SUPER impressive! This could easily be adapted for a school or co-op group (if you have the freezer space).
You will need:
- A large, round frozen block of ice (fill a plastic bowl with water, freeze and rinse the outside of the bowl with cool water to dislodge the ice)
- Translucent Tupperware or box
- Tray to catch melting ice
- Salt (coarse works best)
- Watercolor paints and brushes
First, place a flashlight (pointing up) in the middle of your tray. Cover the flashlight with a clear box (a small tupperware works great for this). Carefully place the ice block on top of the box or tupperware, centered over the light. Using watercolors, have your student paint the ice. Use blues and purples if you’re going for a true moon-like look. Instruct them to sprinkle salt and watch as it forms canyons and craters. Once the moon is painted, check back frequently as the ice melts and the craters become larger.
Do your kids like learning about the constellations? I love how easy it is to spot the major constellations this time of year (just follow Orion and you can find the entire winter circle). My boys and I made these simple constellation cards using some construction paper and a hole puncher. And they look awesome up against a bright window!
- Use a chalk or acrylic marker for drawing the constellations first
- Smaller cards will be easier to punch
- If you can’t reach a star with the hole puncher, gently fold the paper and punch in the middle of the fold
- Hang them in a sunny window to see your constellations light up!
We used the constellation unit from The Winter Journal to guide us.
Night Sky Playdough
Another favorite! I mean, what’s better than velvety soft, sparkly homemade playdough?
- 2 cups white flour
- 1 cup fine salt
- 3 Tbsp cream of tartar (helps make it smooth and elastic)
- 1.5 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups of boiling water (carefully!)
- 5-10 drops blue or purple food coloring
Knead the dough together until it’s nice and smooth. Then, pour a small amount of glitter in the center of the dough, and knead it in a little at a time.
Add star sequence or beads and press them in to make constellations. Or, use stars or marbles to make galaxy spirals.
This stuff lasts a long time. We store it in a ziploc storage bag inside a cupboard inside a cool room. It’s one of our best-loved activities!
This is a fun, hands-on way to learn about the moon and why it’s full of craters.
First, we mixed up some moon sand. The boys tossed the rocks into the sand and we talked about how the moon has no atmosphere to protect it from objects in space, and how there is no wind or water to alter the landscape. It was a fun way to get messy and bring the facts to life.
EASY MOON SAND RECIPE:
- 8 cups flour
- 1 cup baby oil (or another oil)
- Mix together in a mixer for 10 min
Moon Phases Playdough
More playdough, I know. But this one was too good not to share.
Our playdough tools (they are vintage cooking utensils) worked perfectly to make these moon phases. What I think is a meat tenderizer imprinted perfectly sized circles, and then we used mason jar lid rings to cut out the different phases. Really, all you need are mason jar rings and some sort of dough roller.
One thing I love to include in our nature studies is art. I just love painting with my babies!
You don’t need fancy paints or brushes for this ~ just make sure you have white acrylic or tempura paint on hand for the splatter painted stars (the best part!)
You can find the video tutorial for this watercolor activity here.
Night Sky Booklist
**I am an affiliate of Amazon, which means I receive a small commission from purchases through product links, which helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**