Teaching Children to Look Up – Space Week
20 September 2022
Teaching children about space is important for stimulating their imagination and sense of wonder. Read on for some some fun Space Week activities!
Space – the final frontier. We’re all familiar with the sun, the moon, the milky way, and we’re all still quietly mourning the loss of Pluto’s planetary status, but do you remember learning about space? It feels like it’s something we all just innately know. As it turns out, teaching children about space at an early age is an important phase for stimulating their imagination – a key pillar of the Reggio Emilia philosophy – and helps them work through feelings of isolation and anxiety.
For Space Week, we’ve listed a few ways you can teach your child about outer space in an engaging way to get them dreaming of the stars!
1. Get Crafty
While older children are better equipped for discussion, younger children – especially infants – can’t simply be told about space. Rather, at this age, they’re more sensory and learn through touch and feel. Space is perfect for sensory projects as it’s full of colour, shapes and the night sky is a vast, natural canvas.
Paper mâché planets, plush stars, finger painting and cardboard spaceships are just a few DIY ideas. If your child is too young for craft projects, a sensory kit is the perfect alternative. They’ve blown up in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Children learn through all their senses, and space provides a range of environments and terrains. To make a sensory kit, simply:
- Find a container, tray, bucket or bowl.
- Fill the base with your desired sensory material, e.g. smooth pebbles, marbles, mud, dry pasta, grass, sand, seashells, etc.
- Add space-themed ornaments such as toy planets, astronauts, stars, spaceships, satellites, etc.
- Invite your child to engage with the kit – just make sure you supervise to avoid any choking hazards.
2. Read a Space-Themed Book
Children love reading, and it’s a vital part of their development. Pop-up and picture books are perfect for teaching children about space as you can read them together, enjoy the colourful photos and share the experience while encouraging their intellectual curiosity.
Here a few of our recommendations from Australian authors:
- The ABC Book of Rockets, Planets and Outer Space by Helen Martin and Judith Simpson, and illustrated by Cheryl Orsini.
- Space Kids – Sabotage by Aleesah Darlison and illustrated by Nancy Bevington.
- Give me some Space! by Philip Bunting.
3. Make a Day of It
Arts projects, pop-up books and sensory kits only get you so far. Although you can’t exactly travel into outer space, there are loads of places you can take your child to show them the wonders of space.
Museums, observatories, exhibits and planetariums are a wonderful way to get your child gazing at the stars. Additionally, tours are often available by professionals who can teach your child some mind-boggling facts they can share with their friends.
4. Get a Telescope
While trips to state-of-the-art facilities and dedicated exhibits are a great excursion, you can’t do them every day. Telescopes give children the agency to explore space on their own and ignites their curiosity of the natural world. Moreover, they’re a perfect Christmas or birthday present that you can pair with star charts or calendars of orbital patterns.
Lastly, telescopes teach children about weather patterns and seasonal changes, as overcast weather will impact visibility. Overall, this teaches children about the interconnected nature of the universe.
5. Write a Story
Space is awe-inspiring for children, and they can sometimes feel a sense of yearning as they can’t physically venture out into the stars. While books and museums inspire a sense of discovery, why not use this desire for adventure as an opportunity to explore their imagination?
Writing is a fantastic way to teach children about literacy, as well as expressing their emotions and creative flare. It won’t be H.G. Wells, but physically writing their ideas onto paper is a huge cognitive boost for children, as research suggests writing by hand may make them smarter.
Here are a few writing prompts to get them thinking:
- You are the captain of a voyage to Mars. It’s all going well until there’s a mutiny! What happens next?
- Write a short story about discovering a crashed spaceship in your backyard.
- Your best friend turns into an alien! What happens next?
Why is Space Week Important?
Space Week, and the galaxy more broadly, teaches children a fundamental lesson – the world is bigger than themselves. In their early years, children may feel isolated and even lose their sense of imagination as they mature and learn about responsibility and their role in a broader community. Space, through its impossible vastness, beautiful planets, swirling blackholes and brilliants stars is a venture into the great unknown and by its very nature invites fantastical scenarios and creative thinking.
However, outer space isn’t as fanciful as you might think. The space industry grew 9% year-over-year in 2021. At the current rate of growth, the space economy is expected to increase to $634 billion by 2026 and exceed $1 trillion in revenue by 2040, creating numerous jobs and career paths in the process.
Consequently, the idea of your child working in the space industry, or even travelling into outer space, isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. Likewise, who knows what technology will exist in the near future? Don’t forget, it only took 66 years between the Wright Brothers embarking on the first ever plane flight (December 17, 1903) to humans walking on the moon (July 20, 1969) when Neil Armstrong uttered the famous words – ‘that’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.’