Moon Activities for Preschoolers
Ben loves outer space. Like a lot of preschoolers, he loves to learn about the moon, stars, planets. Basically everything above our atmosphere.
I love this. Learning about our solar system is fascinating. There are very few of us who haven’t looked up at the night sky with wonder.
But sadly it is hard to find the time to learn more about the Milky Way and all the other galaxies out there. So when Ben told me he wanted to learn more about the moon I jumped on it.
Here are some of our favorite moon activities for preschoolers.
Moon Activities for Preschoolers
You don’t need to just rely on books and online resources to learn more about the moon. There are amazing sources of knowledge there, but I have found hands-on activities really reinforce concepts best.
As such, I try to help my kids do moon crafts and moon activities. And don’t worry, these are pretty quick to do. Used these in combination with written sources and you will really make an impact.
Be an Orbit
This activity can very quickly dissolve into a giggle fest, but it is worth a try. I’ll do my best to give a description of what is happening, but the big thing to know is it involves spinning in circles.
Clean out space on your floor, no tripping hazards here. Pick a decently sized ball and place it in the middle of the room. This is your sun. (This is also a good role for anyone who doesn’t like to spin in circles.
Pick one child to be the Earth. They start walking in a circle around the sun. (Bonus points for spinning while you do it to represent how the Earth spins.)
Now for the fun, but tough, part. Have a second person run in small circles around the Earth. Yes, while the Earth person is walking slowly in a circle around the sun. This is usually where the giggles start.
What you are showing is that the Earth orbits around the sun and the moon orbits around the Earth. It’s a simple and fun way to demonstrate a basic idea with play.
What you are teaching your children is that the Earth orbits around the sun and the moon orbits around the Earth. It’s a simple and fun way to demonstrate a basic idea. (And if you have little sisters they can run through your solar system randomly pretending to be meteors.)
So if the moon is spinning around the Earth, why does it appear that the same side of the moon is always facing us? Does it rotate around its own axis like the Earth?
We only see one side of the moon due to tidal locking. This is when two celestial bodies always face each other. The moon takes just as long to complete a rotation on its axis as it does to rotate the Earth, so we only see the one side. (You can learn more here: Tidal Locking
The Phases of the Moon
So we know that due to tidal locking we are only seeing one side of the moon. So why does the moon look like a big circle sometimes and a banana others?
The answer is that we see phases of the moon.
What we see as being a full moon, crescent moon, half moon, and no moon all come about due to how we see the sun reflecting off the moon. When we see the full moon it is because more light is hitting the surface of the moon we see.
There are 8 phases of the moon:
- New Moon: When we can’t really see much of the moon at all
- Waxing Crescent: Crescent moon that is growing (waxing)
- First Quarter: Half moon
- Waxing Gibbous: 3/4 moon that is growing (waxing)
- Full Moon: When we see the whole moon
- Waning Gibbous: 3/4 moon that is shrinking (waning)
- Last Quarter: Half moon
- Waning Crescent: Crescent moon that is shrinking (waning)
Build Your Own Moon Phases
A fun way to make your own model of the phases of the moon is to grab some sandwich cookies. (I am partial to Oreos, but use what you like.)
You need 8 cookies. Keep one in its original state. This is your new moon.
Take another cookie and take the top off, leaving the cream inside intact. This is your full moon.
Place the cookies on opposite sides of the plate.
Now your child gets a fun part. Nibble the top pieces of 6 other cookies to create the phases of the moon!
This is a fun and tasty way to get your kids interested in the moon. You can also head to the bottom of this post to get a free printable coloring page to color the moon phases.
Make Your Own Moon Craters
As much as Ben wishes he had his own moon rocks, sadly those are not available for us to learn from directly. But we can get an idea of what happens when rocks hit the moon. Really big rocks.
If you look at pictures of the moon you will see that it does not have a smooth surface. There are a lot of bumps and craters. Some of these craters are caused by meteorites or comets striking the surface of the moon. (These are the really big rocks I was talking about.)
Gather up some rocks and some play dough and you will be ready to go.
Roll out a circle of play-doh and press it into the bottom of a large Tupperware. (You don’t need it to be in a container, but it will help.)
Get your rocks and have your child throw them at your moon! What you will see are impact craters on the surface.
A few tips from our real experiences. This is a good one to do outside if your child wants to throw their rocks hard. Eye protection isn’t a bad idea.
If your play-doh is fresh and soft, it will be easy to make the impressions. Ours is a bit older, and I didn’t really want to encourage Ben to throw rocks as hard as he could. So we just played pretend that the rocks were flying through the sky and pressed them hard into our moon.
This worked just as well. We got some great craters. Ben loved ‘being’ the meteorite, and we were still able to learn about how the moon got so bumpy.
Time for the free printable!
You can get this free coloring page in my library of free printables! This is a special resource for Team Cartwright readers. Want access? Sign up below. You will get an email with the password to unlock the library. This also signs you up for the Team Cartwright mailing list, which you can, of course, unsubscribe from at any time.
To the Moon and Back
The moon is a great way to encourage a love of astronomy and exploration in general. We can see the moon and see how it changes in a repetitive way pretty easily. You don’t need any special equipment to look up.
These easy activities take minutes to do but can spark a long interest in exploring space.
Here are some more fun learning activities!