Young children are natural explorers who are curious to learn about the world around them. They are fascinated by the sky, and wonder about things like the sun, clouds, and stars. They try to figure out how everything works, with questions like “where do stars go during the day?” These questions and conversations about space offer wonderful opportunities to encourage curiosity and introduce STEM concepts. In this article, we highlight activities and children’s books that help little learners expand their knowledge about outer space.
The Benefits of Learning About Outer Space
Teaching children about outer space nurtures their natural sense of curiosity and wonder. Many children are fascinated by the vastness of the universe, and introducing conversations about things like the planets and solar system will engage and nurture their inquisitive minds.
When young children learn about planets and the solar system, it helps them to recognize how precious earth is. For example, the fact that Earth is the only planet that is known to have water underscores how important water is for all of us. These types of conversations can reinforce ideas about sustainability and why it is so important to care for our planet.
Space-related topics can easily be connected to science, math, literacy, pretend play, and other parts of your curriculum. Children can count stars, read books about outer space, and dress up as astronauts. If you are working with older children, talking about space is also a great jumping-off point for other STEM topics. For example, you might use a conversation about the planets to introduce some of the basics of gravity, or a conversation about rockets to introduce physics and engineering.
Although the concept of outer space can be difficult for young children to fully comprehend, research has found that children are interested in it from a very young age. In fact, a 2019 study in which parents kept a diary of the conversations they had with their young children, showed that children as young as three years old initiated conversations about the sun, moon, and stars. Educators who work with toddlers observe the same type of curiosity when children point out clouds and the moon in the sky.
Children develop at slightly different rates, and are exposed to new topics at different ages. A great way to see what the children in your care understand about outer space is to introduce a few books with stories about space to see how much they know and what questions they have.
Books & Activities for Learning about Space
Books, videos, and art projects are all great tools for learning about outer space. To introduce this topic, it can be helpful to start with what children are able to see, such as the moon, sun, and stars. From there, you can explore less familiar topics like the planets, the Milky Way, and any other concepts that children are interested in learning more about! Check out the list below to find ideas for children of different ages.
Activities and Board Books for Toddlers