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Little girl doing astronomy at-home activities

3 Hands-On Astronomy Activities for Kids

fun ways to learn about the stars at home

The nice thing about astronomy is you can look at the stars from your yard without any fancy equipment. But unlike other sciences, astronomy relies mostly on your sense of sight; there’s not much to touch, smell or taste. So here are three hands-on astronomy activities you can do at home to make the stars more accessible to kids.

Marshmallow Constellations

What You’ll Need:
Marshmallows
Toothpicks

What You’ll Do: 

When your kids get tired of looking up at the stars, they can look down and make their own. LLELA nature programs coordinator Tiara Chapman says this makes for a great camping activity, but you can do it in your backyard too—just get a bag of marshmallows and some toothpicks, and task the kids with assembling the patterns they see in the sky above (or coming up with their own constellations).

Construction Paper Stars & Constellations

What You’ll Need:
Black construction paper
Toothpicks (or another sharp object you trust your kids to use)
Chalk
Light source

What You’ll Do: 

Take it one step further and make constellations that actually glow. Have your kids poke holes in the construction paper to re-create the stars they see and use the chalk to connect the stars or draw pictures around them. Then shine your phone’s flashlight or other light source through the paper to illuminate their astral masterpieces.

Solar System to Scale

What You’ll Need:
Balloon
Dried bean (or similar size object)
Measuring tape

What You’ll Do: 

This spring, University of Dallas physics professor Jacob Moldenhauer helped his kids understand the size of the sun using a balloon. “You blow up a balloon to a normal size, and say, ‘OK, this is the sun. Then how big is the earth?’ And it’s smaller than a lentil bean,” he says.

To illustrate the vast distances in our solar system, you can expand your model—together, look up how far each planet is from the sun, and decide on a scale (say, 50 million miles equals 1 foot). Yes, you’ll have to do a little math. Then find an object to represent each planet and measure out the distance. You may have to grab your sidewalk chalk and take your solar system outside just to make room.

Looking for more science activities to do with your kids? Check out these four at-home experiments.

Image courtesy of iStock.