Kids are insatiably curious, but that’s certainly not a bad thing, especially considering how much we know about the world. Today’s youngsters are in a perfect position to ask important questions, because thanks to the global spread of information, the answers aren’t hard to come by. If your kids are interested in space or you want to get them as excited about the secrets of the universe as you are, here’s how to get started:
1. Take them outside.
Learning about space doesn’t start by opening a book or turning on a documentary. It starts by looking up. After all, that’s how mankind’s curiosity about space began. Take your kids outside on a cloudless night and point out stars or constellations you now. Use a stargazing app on your phone to seek out Andromeda or locate Jupiter. Tell your kids that every point of light they see is a whole other world, and watch their eyes light up in amazement.
2. Compare distances to things they’re familiar with.
One of the more difficult aspects to teach when it comes to astronomy is distance. Even adults have a hard time comprehending the vastness of space. To give your kids a better idea of the scale of the universe, take them around the town or city where you live and use familiar landmarks to show them distances. For example, if you’re teaching them about the solar system, scale it down and show them how far the outer planets are from us by using your home as Earth, then drive to different locations that represent Jupiter, Saturn, and the other outer planets. These types of scaling experiments have been done many times in the past, so if you’re stuck, do a quick search online for help!
3. Show them pictures.
Do you remember the first Hubble photo you ever saw? Can you recall the sense of wonder you felt when you realized that what you were looking at was a formation out in space that humans may never get to see up close or in person? Give your kids that experience too. Show them images of nebulae and explain what they are. Go through all the photos and videos sent back by space probes and tell them about what they’re seeing. Your goal here isn’t to necessarily teach them anything, but to get them interested enough to ask questions. And if you don’t have the answer, make sure the two of you go find it together.
4. Go to museums.
Hands-on museums are the best. Children and adults alike can appreciate being able to get up close and personal with exhibits, because nothing teaches you quite like active participation. No matter where you live, chances are there’s a children’s museum near you that has a space-themed exhibit, or better yet a planetarium. Not only are these fantastic educational experiences, they also offer bonding time and create lasting memories for you and your kids.