It’s that time of year again. The temperature's dropping, the leaves are falling, and the clocks have gone back. With festivals like Halloween and Guy Fawkes, many pre-school children find themselves allowed out at night for the first time, and they’re amazed. To them, the after-dark world is fascinating - they’re ready to explore and eager to know more.
With so much natural curiosity flying around, it’s an ideal time of year to teach children about space and that’s why we’ve chosen it as this term’s topic here at St Eval Pre-school. There’s lots of out-of-this-world activities relating to space, but here’s some of our favourites and how you can adapt or extend them at home.
Preparing for launch – why teach pre-school children about space?
First, it’s important to say that space is a complex subject and you don’t want to get too scientific. The main aim when teaching this topic is to increase children’s awareness of their surroundings and their world, so that when they’re out on these dark nights they know what the twinkly things are in the sky and that the moon isn’t just a huge street light.
At St Eval Pre-school, we’ll introduce the concept of planets - the Earth, the Sun, the Moon and our neighbours like Mars, Venus and Saturn. We’ll also touch on space travel, playing with rockets and dressing up as astronauts. And, of course, we’ll have heaps of fun with flying saucers and little green men.
As well as practising numbers, shapes and colours, space is a great topic to stretch their imaginations.
How to take them on an intergalactic journey
There are so many fun and engaging ways to teach pre-school children about space. Here’s a few of the activities we’ll be running at pre-school and how you can get involved at home.
Books to help blast off the topic
Books are a great way to introduce any topic, and there’s some excellent ones about space. With the whole class or in smaller groups, the children love reading books over and over. When going through stories, we ask the children as many questions as possible about the pictures on each page, and if they know the story well, we encourage them to re-tell it.
Our favourite books about space are:
1. Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman – This hilarious rhyming tale always has the children in stitches.
2. Hello, World! Solar System by Jill McDonald – This is perfect for teaching them about the different planets and includes helpful prompts like “can you point to the red planet?” to get the children involved.
If you know your child has read these stories, ask them what they were about, and see if they can re-tell them to you. Or borrow one of the books from your local library and read them together before bed.
Songs for stargazing
Pre-school children always enjoy singing and there’s a couple of space-themed songs that work particularly well.
1. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – We all know this one! Why not take your child outside after dinner to spot some stars and sing this together? Doing a fun activity like this with your child familiarises them with their environment, and can even help overcome fear of the dark.
2. 5 Little Men in a Flying Saucer – This cute little song also practises numbers and we use it a lot at pre-school. You could watch the video with your child at home and ask them to help you with the words. Also, try asking them about what they see in the video to practice their vocabulary e.g. what colour are the men? what planets can you see? Who are the little men? What are they flying in?
We’ll be doing lots of space-themed crafts at pre-school that easily be done at home as well.
Here’s some examples of what we’ll be making:
1. Paper plate planets – This is a great one to practice the different colours of the planets. All you need is paper plates, paints and some crafty bits for sticking!
2. Name rockets - We give each child a range of shapes with the letters of their names on. The children then arrange the shapes to create a rocket and spell out their name. As well as making a cool rocket, the children are practising letter recognition, fine motor skills and shapes.
3. Moon sand – The children love this one and it’s a perfect sensory play idea for at home too. Using flour and baby oil, you can make soft, mouldable sand. We usually add colours and glitter at pre-school too to give it an extra spacey-twist. Here’s an easy how-to video so you can make it at home.
We have lift-off!
Pre-school children learning through play, so the best way to practice everything we’ve introduced is with a little role play.
At pre-school we make a space station out of an old computer and spacesuits with tin foil-covered cycle helmets for the children to dress up in and explore the galaxy. Having endless fun along the way, the children’s imaginations run wild as they build stories, make relationships with each other and share experiences.
Role play is an easy one to replicate at home too. Next time you’re stuck at home on a wet afternoon, get the cushions off the sofa, grab a blanket and build yourself your own space station at home. To take it to the next level, get the tin foil out and raid the recycling for cardboard boxes, bottle tops, toilet roll tubes and yogurt pots. With a little imagination, you can build anything.
Teaching pre-school children about space is a lot of fun. We hope you can use some of these ideas to get involved at home and enjoy being part of your child’s learning. If you have any other space-themed activities that you’d like to share, please let us know on our Facebook page.
Here's to a fun-filled term - to infinity and beyond!
Written by Erin Madden, Pre-school Secretary and Writer at Ignite Copy.