Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tips for Observing the Night Sky With Kids

Now that you've learned all about the phases of the moon and learned about a few constellations, it's time to do the real thing and go stargazing. Stargazing is the perfect activity for a fun family night. It doesn't require any special equipment. It won't cost any money. And, if you're lucky, you may not have to go further than your own front yard. 

Grab a thermos of hot chocolate and some snacks. Pack a blanket or two and head outside.
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Tips for successful stargazing:
  1. Keep a close eye on the weather report. Choose a night that is clear with little to no cloud coverage. 
  2. Dress for the weather and remember that it will be colder at night. Bring blankets for sitting on the ground and for extra warmth.
  3. Choose an area with as little excess light as possible. Stay away from street lights and other city lights. The darker it is, the more stars you will see in the sky. Bring your own flashlight for the times when you need a little extra light.
  4. Do your homework. Be able to identify a few constellations and that night's moon phase. Bring along a star map and know how to read it. You'll be better able to help your kids have a successful night of stargazing if you equip yourself with some knowledge.
Look for the moon. If you're observing the night sky for the first time or are viewing it with preschool-age or younger children, a good starting place is the moon. Know what that night's moon phase will be. A full moon night is a fun time for a night sky observation! There are many easy ways to check the moon phase. I have Moon Phase Pro, an Android app, on my Kindle Fire to keep track of the moon phases. Moon Calendar is a good app for Apple products. If you don't want to use an app, you can check out a free moon phase calendar at It's fun to observe the night sky a few days in a row to see how the moon changes every night. 

Keep a journal of what you see. Invite your school-age kids to keep a night sky journal for a few days. Record the night's moon phase. Look for constellations and draw the ones that you saw. Compare your journal pages over a few days and note any changes. I made a simple night sky journal page, free for you to print out and use. Please click here to download and print the journal page. If you want to do something a bit more simple, invite your child to draw or write their observations in a small notebook.

For more fun stargazing ideas:
Have you ever gone stargazing with your kids? What are your best tips?

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