Next week’s total solar eclipse across the United States will be a big topic of conversation on the news and elsewhere. It’s one time when you can listen to the news without a lot of doom and gloom, and it’s likely your little one is going to be curious.
This is the perfect opportunity to teach them about the planets and how they move.
We talked earlier this summer about the planets when NASA announced they’d found potentially livable planets elsewhere in the universe. This, of course, does not mean they are planets we could get to in our lifetimes or even the lifetimes of our children, but it’s an interesting concept to imagine that there may be some form of life somewhere else.
To understand the eclipse, though, your child will need to understand some of the mechanics of our own solar system. Depending on the age of your child, you can get as complicated as showing them the entire system of planets and moons here in our little corner of heaven.
But all you really need to focus on are the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun.
Create a Model
You can use a simple desk lamp to represent the Sun, a tennis ball to represent the Earth, and a ping pong ball or golf ball to demonstrate the Moon as you show your child how the Moon can cast a shadow over the Earth when it passes between it and the Sun during an eclipse.
You may want to play with your model a few times before showing your little one just to be sure you have your celestial bodies in a close enough proximity to each other to make the demonstration clear.
Time to Play
Now that your child understands what’s actually happening when the sky darkens on Monday, you can move on to playing games with them associated with the movement of the Sun.
NASA has a great collection of activities you can do with your preschooler or kindergartner to help them explore the mechanics of space a bit. What’s great about sites like this is that they’re interactive. You and your child can talk with other parent/child combos and citizen scientists around the world and across the country as the eclipse moves from West to East across our continent.
Sharing this special event in a meaningful way with your child not only gives you precious bonding time, it also helps your child to see how science plays a significant role in their daily life.
Here’s another fun way to engage your child’s interest and imagination using the solar eclipse.
Ask them, can you imagine what it would have felt like to have lived thousands of years ago? You wouldn’t know the eclipse was coming, so the sudden darkness would have taken you completely by surprise. The air would grow colder as the sky darkened to almost night even in the middle of the afternoon. Looking up, you would have seen a darkness slowly taking over the sun. If you stared long enough, you might have even gone blind, and never seen the light of day again!
In the few moments it took for the moon to cross the sun, you might have wondered if the sun would ever return. You wouldn’t have known it was the moon casting a shadow. What kind of stories might you have made up to explain the phenomenon?
You could spend several cozy afternoons or evenings sharing those stories back and forth as you speculate on all the different possibilities you both can come up with.