Science Activities: Games To Play With Astronomy Toys

Teaching astronomy is more fun when its a game. This article contains some ideas using aplanetarium, telescope and index cards.

Astronomy, the study of the universe, is a vast subject covering everything from stars to planets to galaxies. Making the teaching of astronomy into a game, using planetariums and telescopes, is a great introduction of the subject to children. Some children retain more information when playing games, so this article is intended to help you with the basics.

GAMES WITH ASTRONOMY TOYS

PLANETARIUM

Planetariums, and similar toys, range in price from $15 to $150. You can also use star charts and posters. The main purpose of a planetarium is to recreate the night sky indoors, which is great for star gazing during the day. This is a great tool to introduce the concept of stars and teach about constellations. If you don't know a lot about these subjects, you can do online searches or purchase a book.

To give you some background, constellations are images in the night sky found and named by poets, farmers and astronomers to help them identify stars. They are similar to a dot to dot picture; the image is not there until you connect the dots. Because some constellations can only be seen during different seasons, many farmers would use the positioning of the stars to let them know what time of year it was.



Some of the most famous constellations are the Big Dipper and Orion.

You can use the Planetarium to help identify and learn the constellations. Take some index cards and write down the names of the constellations on them. Take turns picking out cards and then finding the constellation. Feel free to add fun facts to each card that you find on the internet. If you are playing it as a game, only give 15 - 30 seconds to find the constellation. The winner is the person who has named the most images.

Another fun game involves making your own constellations. Study the stars and see what images you can find and name them. Have your child write a story or mythology about his or her constellation.

You can also teach the different stars and planets the same way. Create index cards with information about each star or planet. Take turns studying the sky to find the selected star. Begin with 5 stars, and add more as your child becomes more familiar with them. If you teach constellations first, the stars will be easier to find because they can place them within the constellation. Repeat the exercise with planets.

TELESCOPE

After you have studied the stars and planets with the planetarium, take it outside with the telescope. Learning how a telescope works is an exciting lesson in itself. Talk about the telescope you have and compare it to the one they would use at NASA. Then, using charts and constellations, find the stars and planets in the real night sky. Jot down which stars you can identify, and keep track of what season and month you are in. Every month track the movement of the stars and planet in the night sky.

PLANETS

To help children learn about the planets, search online and find pictures of each planet. Print it out and paste it on an index card. On the back write 2 or 3 facts about each planet. Then have your child practice putting the planets in order. When they master that, you can play planet trivia. Ask them a question about the planet, and have them find the picture of the planet.

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