Making Fall Stargazing Easy With Kids

A few weeks ago, on our trip to Canyonlands, we slept out under the stars with the kids (Jimmy got to sleep in the car with a cracked window).  We used to do this all the time pre-kids, but somehow we always feel a parental duty to set up the tent.  Thankfully, on this night, we were feeling pretty lazy and the weather was good.  Out came the tarp and the sleeping bags went straight down.  Mason and Chloe had no troubles falling asleep, but it didn’t last for long.  About every hour, one of the kids would wake up and talk to us about the stars.  While I was drifting in and out of consciousness for many of these conversations, Andrew dutifully pointed out constellation after constellation.  One more reason he’s gonna be “Dad of the year”!  The desert sky was so clear and the stargazing was epic.

 

(Image by shotrockers.com)

It all brought me back to my pre-kid life when I was a middle school science teacher (bet you didn’t know that one).  Every year, my favorite thing to teach was astronomy.  I was a super-geek about it and would have constellations pinned up all over my classroom to accompany my papier-mache moon phases that were hanging from the ceiling.  Did you know that I was determined to be an astronaut when I was younger?  Okay, back on topic.  When I was teaching, I came across Uncle Al’s Star Wheels.  It is a free printable star wheel that you put together with a brad.  The best part is that it really works (oh, and it’s pretty much identical to all the star wheels I see at gift shops selling for $10 – Thanks Uncle Al).  I’ve seen it with hundreds of students and after our recent stargazing night with the kids, I knew it was time that they had their own.  Guess what?  It works like a charm.  It’s simple enough that Mason can figure it out, but also detailed enough that it never bored my teenage students.  (Tip: make sure you print your star wheel on cardstock)

So now that I’ve blabbed on and on, you’re now wondering why fall is such a great time to star gaze with your kids.  Here’s why:

1.It gets dark early.  This Sunday is the time change, and for me, stargazing is the ONLY perk of it getting dark early.  This makes it easy to take little one’s out to check out the stars.

2.  It’s chilly but not freezing.  Around here, the weather in the evenings is great for just a jacket.  Also, it’s great to go before the ground is covered with snow so you can lay out on a blanket.

If you want your kids to really love you, have some hot chocolate ready for them when they come inside.  A warm drink plus amazing stars is sure to create a night that your kids will remember.  Print out your star wheel now!  (You’ll thank me when you can just run right outside this weekend)

One more thing.  Stargazing is really hard when the moon is really full, so check this moon calendar to see when it will be smaller or come up later – this will make stargazing much easier

Want tips for what to do EACH NIGHT?  Check out Star Date for nightly stargazing tips.

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