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Children are fascinated by the night sky. It is then that they get an idea of where we live. The millions of stars above are all suns. Some of them no longer exist- having burnt out perhaps millions of years ago, leaving only their image to travel through time and space.
Our own sun is a star as well. Being the closest star to our planet, it has caught us in its magnetic field and holds us in an elliptical path on which we orbit, circling the Sun, along with other planets, asteroids, comets, moons, gases and matter of various sorts. Our sun and everything caught in its energy field is called the Solar System. We circle our sun, whose name is simply The Sun, like clockwork, every 365 and one-quarter days. Our Solar System is located in the Milky Way Galaxy, sometimes called the Galaxy.
Scientists differ on the definition of a planet; hence there is controversy on whether there are 8, 9, 10, 11 or more planets in our Solar System. Children are now being taught there are 8 planets and 4 dwarf planets, listed here in order from closest to the Sun to the farthest away.
The Terrestrial Planets:
The Outer Gas Giants:
The Dwarf Planets:
Each planet has its own unique characteristics. Scientist theorize there may have been life on the planet Mars, but at this time, only Earth hosts life as we know it.
Space exploration has helped us expand our idea of the Universe as a territory so vast that we cannot begin to know its dimensions or true composition. We know that it is composed of space (nothing) and matter (something). But there is so much we do not know. Many of the questions your child will ask may need to remain a mystery.
Some basic facts about our sun:
Some facts about the planets:
Teaching your youngster about the Solar System will be fun and easy, as their curiosity will generate questions the two of you can explore together. And it is one topic where it is okay to say, “I don’t know! Let’s see what we can find.”
Preschoolers love to look up. The moon is a favorite object for many little ones, its bright face changing all the time. Just standing outside under the night sky and quietly observing together will trigger an instinctual knowing in your child. They will know the stars are farther away and the moon is closer. Let them know that stars are suns similar to ours.
Kids this age may also enjoy a trip to a planetarium. They won’t understand everything, but will be fascinated by the magnitude and movement of the stars and constellations.
One early connection to our Solar System is the weather. The Earth’s position in relation to the Sun, along with your position on the Earth determines the weather and the seasons. Some children may be intensely interested in the weather and the seasons, which will give you an opportunity to learn more by exploring books and internet sites about the Solar System.
The phases of the moon will not escape your child’s notice. Spend some time finding an explanation you both understand. You may be surprised! This is also a good time to introduce the calendar to your child, which will later be useful when adding to what they know about time, the seasons, and the weather.
For now it is enough to know we have a vital relationship with the Sun and that we live on a planet we’ve named Earth.
Main points to address:
Young children will begin formally studying the Solar System and our place in it. You can expand on what they are learning by visiting some of the high-quality websites available, a few of which are referenced below.
Camping under the night sky will recreate the wonder of their earliest experiences with the night sky. Take along a flashlight and a book of constellations and see how many you can find!
Some scouting groups work toward astronomy badges and complete learning projects on different aspects of the Solar System. A trip to the library can supplement your child’s research.
As your child grows and is ready for more detailed information on the Solar System, you may want to consider a “Space Camp” where kids have a chance to learn serious science and work on real life projects related to space travel and exploration.
Probably the best resource at this time is the Internet. Spend some time gazing at the Hubble photographs. They will render you speechless. Check out some of the sites that have information and activities geared toward your child’s age group.
If your child has a real passion for the planets, the moon and for space, foster this by creating opportunities to develop his or her interest. Who knows- your youngster may belong to the next generation of space explorers!
Main Points to address:
Resources that can help you in your venture include:
Posted in Education.