Posted: May 22 2014
The Moon has been a source of mystery and wonder throughout the ages. It is the largest heavenly body that we see with the naked eye, which makes it a great starting point when introducing astronomy to children.
Some fun, hands on activities will help your child understand how the Moon orbits the Earth and why it is different shapes during the month.
Here are some interesting Moon facts to share with your little ones while you Moon watch or take part in the activities below.
- Many cultures use the Moon’s phases as their calendar.
- The Earth’s closest neighbor is the Moon.
- The Moon doesn’t make its own light, but reflects the Sun’s light.
- As there is no atmosphere on the Moon, there is no weather. Without wind, the footprints left by astronauts, remain there today.
- There are 13 full moons a year
- It takes 29.5 days from a New Moon to the Full Moon
- A second full moon in a month is called a Blue Moon
Demonstrate how the Moon orbits the Earth with two balls: one large, one smaller. In one hand hold the larger ball, (a football would be perfect), this will represent the Earth. In your other hand, hold a second smaller ball, e.g. a tennis ball, which will represent the Moon. Move the Moon around the Earth, it helps to place a sticker on the smaller ball to illustrate that although the Moon rotates we always see the same side/face pointing towards us.
Moon Phases Demonstration
To demonstrate the phases of the Moon you will need a torch, a large ball, a smaller ball and a dark room. Explain how the Moon, illuminated by the Sun, has different phases. Place the larger ball, which represents Earth on a flat surface and ask your child sit in front of the Earth holding the smaller ball, the Moon. Shine the torch on the Earth and let your child orbit the Moon around the Earth to see how the phases of the Moon are created. It may take some practice to get the Moon in just the right spot, but this is an excellent way to simulate the phases of the moon.
To mimic the surface of the Moon, take out a shallow baking tray and pour in enough flour to cover the bottom, about 2.5cm thick. Drop some marbles and golf balls onto the Moon’s surface and see how it creates craters and dents. Compare this with pictures of the Moon’ surface.
Oreo Biscuit Moon Phases
A fun way to demonstrate the phases of the Moon is with Oreo biscuits. Take out seven biscuits, twist off the top of one biscuit. The top will represent the New Moon, the bottom with the creamy center will represent the Full Moon. Take two more biscuits, twist apart again and using a knife carve off a the cream to create a crescent moon (make two of these). Take the next two biscuits and carve off a sliver of the cream leaving a nearly 'full moon'. Finally, take the last two biscuits and scrape away half of the cream, leaving a half moon (make two). Once your biscuits have their phases, line them starting with the New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter and Waning Crescent.
Track the phases of the moon with our moon phase calender activity sheet. Print off the sheet and use it to capture the shape of the moon every night for six weeks. This is an engaging and great observational moon activity for children.