Stimulating The Scientist Inside Your Child: “Family Sky Fun”

There have been many laments by educators, psychologists, and pediatricians that children do not explore nature enough these days. A recent feature at Parents.com talked about the unique learning opportunities parents can give their kids by visiting nature places. But you can also find opportunities to stimulate your child’s scientific thinking right at home, just by looking up at the sky.  

Dr. Juan Ivaldi, a chemist, author, and astronomy educator, has recently written a wonderful piece called “Family Sky Fun: Five Ways to Have Fun With the Sky” on his blog devoted to essential astronomy. He suggests five interactive ways for parents to explore the sky, both day and night, with their children. These include:

  • Making a human sundial (all you need is a sunny day, a piece of chalk if you have a sidewalk or paved driveway, or a stick or rock if you are in your backyard or a field)
  • Tracking the phases of the moon (it only takes a few minutes per day for about a month)
  • Holding in your hand the elements that make up the moon (hint: you just need dirt and rocks)
  • Finding the brightest star in the sky (you can combine this with eating s’mores if you like)
  • Locating constellations (particularly the Big Dipper and Orion)

You can read the details of how to do these things with your kids on Dr. Ivaldi’s blog. What’s really great about his suggestions is that they:

  • Promote parent-child interaction
  • Get kids (and parents) outside
  • Train young eyes to perceive the natural world

Every child experiences a sense of wonder about nature. So while buying science-based toys and visiting museums are terrific ways to expose your child to science, there is no substitute for getting children outside and giving them ways to explore the world. After all, that’s what scientists do!

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  1. by Laurie Moulton

    On July 25, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    LOVE these ideas! Our family has regular family fun nights based on different themes, and although we have done many “space” nights, your article gives us some new things to try.

    Thank you for the ideas!

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    On January 27, 2012 at 10:43 am

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  4. by filtre à sable cantabric

    On April 25, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he just bought me lunch because I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

  5. by ken

    On April 29, 2012 at 11:35 am

    the above site has a download option(basic program 48K) for a marvelous PC Screen Planetarium
    you may see the sky from anywhere in the world and our solar system(Yes the moon and other planets) as well as satellites that may be visible, and the planets and their moons, with magnificent photos that you “Zoom” to by accurate ocular increments…it is big, but not tedious…you may run only prior to download, but i love it as you may set it for a time in the past or future…i have enjoyed occultations of planets by the moon, the rising, crossing and setting of ISS/ZARYA(International Space Station) and even watched it rise late one evening right when and where it would be….

  6. by ken

    On April 29, 2012 at 11:36 am