Outer space is vast, but it is not too big for preschoolers to explore. We have to approach it on their level. Preschoolers’ curiosity grows when they learn using touch and interact with their other senses.
Instead of focusing solely on facts when teaching children scientific topics such as outer space, focus on building excitement to keep them engaged and curious. A few broad facts are welcome, such as “the universe is made up of stars.” Avoid more specific or complex facts that can cause them to feel overwhelmed or bored. If they learn one fact, you have succeeded by sparking a new interest for when they encounter the subject in the future.
3 Ways to Teach Preschoolers About Space
The Phases of the Moon
Learning about the moon is a perfect way for preschoolers to be introduced to outer space. We know the big picture, the solar system and the infinite galaxies beyond. But preschoolers are just discovering the world outside of their home. By keeping things simple and teaching them that the moon exists outside of the earth, we are opening their eyes to a larger world, without overwhelming them. Preschoolers love learning about the phases of the moon because they can relate it to what they see when they look up in the sky.
- Rather than focusing on the order or names of the phases, focus on the different shapes the moon seems to take. Preschoolers are excited about shapes, so this is a great opportunity to look at some abnormal shapes and develop their visual/spatial skills. Observations such as “this shape reminds me of a watermelon” is a great way to help them see it in a relatable way. Our phases of the moon cards are a fun and simple way to observe the shapes of the moon.
- Duplicate the phases with cream filled cookies. Take one cookie off, so you are left with the cream sided cookie. Then allow your child to use a spoon and duplicate a phase by scraping away the cream on their cookie. This is also great for developing their fine motor skills and hand eye coordination as well!
Preschoolers are aware of the stars above them. The science behind the life and properties of a star is too big of a concept for them. Instead, talk about stars on their level. Ask them what they can see in the night sky.
- Constellations are a fun way to get preschoolers connecting the dots. Rather than memorizing the different names of constellations, help them see some of the fun pictures constellations form when imaginary lines are drawn. Preschoolers are just beginning to get comfortable with drawing lines and controlling their pencils. Use black paper, star stickers, and a white crayon to practice making letters or shapes.
- Let them make stars themselves! Allow them to use a flashlight to find hidden letters, colors, or shapes around a room.
Be an Astronaut
Learning about space is a great opportunity for dramatic play. And what better way to learn about space than to become an astronaut?
- Get ready for take-off! Help your child turn a paper grocery bag into an astronaut helmet with our astronaut helmet handout. Tell them space does not have oxygen or gravity. Challenge your preschooler to step off a chair and not hit the ground. Then ask them to hold their breath for a short amount of time. This will help them understand the basic idea of gravity and oxygen. We recommend the use of gloves, boots or other items to get fully dressed for space!
- Set up a rocket ship with chairs, computer keyboards, and anything else on hand to mimic a spacecraft. Practice counting backwards from ten, imagine blasting into space, and exploring where you land. Picking up objects while wearing gloves is another great way to strengthen their fine motor skills.
Remember to keep things simple. “Show” them about space rather than “telling” them about it. No matter what they learn, they will remember how much fun they had! Engaging their minds and bodies will help them feel excited when they learn more about space in the future.