We spent about 1 1/2 weeks learning about space, with a special focus this time on space exploration. Two years ago we mainly focused on the planets, which was fun to repeat with my 3 year old. But, my 5 year old had a much greater interest in rockets and rovers and such, so I grabbed a lot more books this time for him.
- Moonshot (Brain Floca)
- Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover (Markus Motum)
- Mae Among the Stars (Roda Ahmed)
- Counting on Katherine (Helaine Baker)
- Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly)
- The Way Back Home* (Oliver Jeffers)
- Life on Mars* (Jon Agee)
- If You Decide to Go to the Moon** (Faith McNulty)
- One Giant Leap** (Don Brown)
*The two favorites of my 3 year old. Most other books were more for my 5 year old.
**These were just okay. Interesting for one read, but overall not as engaging.
- Space! (DK Smithsonian)
- What We See in the Stars* (Kelsey Oseid)
- The Planets (Gail Gibbons)
- Exploring Space (Martin Jenkins)
- Space Exploration (Eyewitness Books)
- A Brief Illustrated History of Space Exploration (Robert Snedden)
- A Day on the International Space Station
Note that we did not sit and read every page of any of these books, but flipped through and read what interested the kids at the time. My son also enjoys flipping through books like this with lots of pictures on his own even though he cannot read yet.
*We used this book for the information about the planets. We did not really cover too much about constellations and stars this round.
Projects & Activities
CREATE A CLAY SOLAR SYSTEM
My free Solar System Cards are also pictured here.
We used a clay recipe from Nature’s Art Box, but I’m sure store-bought clay or salt dough would work great! We used biscuit cutters to make different sizes, then once they dried we used watercolor paint to design them. Both kids loved this activity, and then they. had their own solar system to play with.
SOLAR SYSTEM SENSORY BIN PLAY
For a space sensory bin we used black beans, black and white glass gems, balled up aluminum foil (for meteors). Then we put our clay planets and toys in the bin. The kids play with this and tell stories but also use scoops and fine motor tools to play around.
MARS & CURIOSITY FOCUS
We made homemade bright red play dough (here’s the recipe I use), built the Curiosity out of LEGOs, and just did a lot of reading and pretend play.
SPACE SHUTTLE & ROCKETS
Obviously my son was particularly interested in rockets — what kid isn’t? So, we used our books and watched videos comparing different rockets over the course of space exploration history. We used these Space Shuttle Nomenclature Cards and books to learn about the parts of the space shuttle.
I have about 20 different space shuttle drawings all over my house right now! And we built different rockets out of LEGO Duplos as well.
The R is for Rocket printout is from the Playful Learning Space Unit (Member’s Lounge access only).
SPACE SHUTTLE CRAFT
Not surprisingly the kids wanted to make more of a craft-based space shuttle (not just illustrate their own on paper), so we looked up ideas together and liked this one with the fire hanging down from the rocket. We taped the rockets to their ceiling fan and had fun watching them take off!
THE MOON LANDING: 50TH ANNIVERSARY
The Printable Space Exploration History Cards are free. We also found the book A Brief Illustrated History of Space Exploration at our library which helped put the timeline of space exploration in context.
With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing coming up this year, it was fun to have my son so interested in learning more about this mission. He particularly loved learning about the astronauts and the mechanics of The Columbia and The Eagle. Again we watched some videos — the footage of the Saturn V rocket launch is pretty astounding and worth checking out!
MAPWORK: NASA LOCATIONS
The black and white state cards are from Target.
The NASA facilities location map I got from here.
My son likes maps so I thought it would add some context to his understanding of the U.S.A. to pinpoint where the Kennedy Space Center, Jet Propulsion Lab, Johnson Space Center, and Langley Research Center are.
SOLAR SYSTEM SCAVENGER HUNT
This Solar System Scavenger Hunt is free – I created it awhile ago. This past week we used it by hiding the printed planets around the house, then the kids had to find them, name them, and check off the list until we found them all. This is really fun and engaging, and works well for young children. It was a fun way for my 3 year old to learn the planets a bit more.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH + SPACE EXPLORATION
Our point of inspiration to even begin a space-themed unit was Mae Jemison and Katherine Johnson. I had checked these books out for Black History Month, but my son in particular was so enthralled I thought it warranted further exploration.
Katherine Johnson has even inspired him to go deeper with his math lessons! He asks to do math every day now!
We listened to some music included on the Voyager Golden Record.
We also talked a lot about gravity and played games to demonstrate.
We watched several videos from NASA: rocket launches, the design of the Mars Curiosity rover, a tour of the International Space Station. Lots to enjoy online!
Feel free to take a peek at our Space Unit from two years ago! We repeated some of these things this year too, like a meteor count and scavenger hunt.
Links to All Printables
- Solar System Cards (Free from me)
- Solar System Scavenger Hunt (Free from me)
- Space 3-Part Cards (Free from me)
- Space Shuttle Nomenclature Cards (Free from The Pinay Homeschooler)
- Space Exploration History Cards (Free from The Pinay Homeschooler)
- Solar System Full Nature Guide (Brave Grown Home)
- Snapshots of Space (Chickie & Roo)
- Layers of the Atmosphere Nature Poster (Chickie & Roo)
- Playful Learning Space Unit (available in the Member’s Lounge)
- Solar System Printable Worksheets (Fun with Mama)
- Solar System Flash Cards (Fiddlestick Kids)
- The Solar System Mini Bundle (Montessori Nature)
Space Play: My Picks
- Mae Jemison Peg Doll
- Space Stickers
- Diecast Space Shuttle
- Green Toys Rocket
- Melissa & Doug Solar System Floor Puzzle
- Mudpuppy Glow in the Dark Puzzle
- Space Alphabet Cards
- Space Themed Wooden Memory Game
- Astronaut Peg Dolls