Moon for Kids

Right now, while the sky still gets dark early, is a great time to enjoy looking at the Moon with your small children or grandchildren. Even if you don’t have a telescope or binoculars, there are lots of fun ways that you can both enjoy our mysterious Moon together. Each evening as it gets dark, go outside and take a look at where the Moon is. There are nights when it will be cloudy, so it makes the game even more fun!

Having the Moon in the sky is something that we noticed all our lives, but most of us don’t think very much about it. When was the last time you saw the Moon? What did it look like? If you went outside, where would you find it? By learning to keep a “Moon Journal” you will soon learn much more about Earth’s nearest neighbor.

Keeping a Moon Journal is easy. All you need is a pencil and paper, and to understand where the cardinal directions are outside. If you have a compass, that’s great. But if you do not, remember to watch where the Sun sets. Next you need to choose a place! Look for an area that you can see most of the southern sky. Use your compass to find south or keep your right shoulder to the direction the Sun set. Don’t worry if there are things in the way, because trees, houses and even power wires will help with what we’re going to do. Mark the spot you chose by drawing an X on the pavement with a piece of chalk, or poking a stick into the ground. You must remember to return to this same spot each time.

Simple sketches make for lunar fun!Now you are ready to begin observing! The most important part about keeping a Moon Journal is to look for the Moon the same time each night. Right now about 8:30 or 9:00 will do very well. Go outside and look for the Moon. Do you see it? Good! Make a very simple picture of where you see the Moon in the sky and be sure to include things like a house or tree in your picture. It doesn’t have to be any more difficult than what you see here. Try your observations for several nights and see if you can learn to predict where the Moon will appear and what it will look like!

Now, let’s experiment with why the Moon has phases. All it takes is a bright flashlight and a ball on a stick. (Even an apple on a fork makes a great Moon, and you can eat it, too!) Whoever is holding the flashlight becomes the Sun and the Earth is your head. If you hold the ball out at arm’s length just above the flashlight while facing the Sun, you can’t see it. This is New Moon. The Moon is still in the sky, but we can’t see it because of the bright sunlight. Now keep the ball at arm’s length and turn slowly counterclockwise and watch what happens. That’s right! You see the ball go through phases, just like our Moon. When your back is towards the Sun, you see the ball as whole, and it will be Full Moon. The Moon will rise on the opposite side of the Earth at the same time the Sun goes down. Keep turning and you’ll see the phases reverse as the Moon moves back towards the Sun again.

Ask your child if he or she has ever seen the Moon during the daytime. Where in the sky do they think the Sun and the Moon needs to be for this to happen? What would happen if the Moon was in front of the Sun? How about the Earth?

Simple experiments like this are a great way to teach children more about astronomy!

6 Replies to “Moon for Kids”

  1. You’ve made a grammatical error. “…there is lots of fun ways” should read “…there are lots of fun ways”. “Is” can’t be used with plurals such as “lots”.

    Keeping a moon journal is a great idea, though. I’ll certainly start doing that with my son. Thank you.

  2. You’re very welcome, Caspar… And thank you for spotting the error. It has been fixed! (Can you tell I type thousands upon thousands of words a day? 😉

    Enjoy the Moon Journal and look for more lunar “stuff” to do with your kids, soon!

  3. Now that your young readers have learned about the Moon’s phases looking at them from Earth’s perspective, can they stretch their inquisitive skills even further to imagine what Earth’s phases might look like from the Moon?
    Some day in the near future those reading this story may actually live and work on the Moon, and who knows, they may end up writing their own story for young inquiring adults back on Earth asking how the Earth’s phases work.
    John — (the most detailed Moon Poster around today)
    Moon missions —
    Moon News —

  4. An interesting and worthwhile project for children and adults alike, but what has confounded me is not being able to find a website that shows the orbit of the Moon around the Earth over the period of a month. One night it is in one place and the next in a completely different part of the sky.

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