If you’re looking for something new, fun, and screen-free to do with your kids (after they’ve watched everything on Netflix, baked some delicious cookies, created tie dye t-shirts, and designed your own backyard water relay race of course), we’ve got just the activity for you: stargazing! Stargazing is a great outdoor activity for the whole family to do together every evening. Now that fall is here and the days are growing shorter, it’s the perfect time to start stargazing as a family. Here are a few tips and helpful resources to get you started:
There are lots of constellations kids can see with just their eyes, so you don’t need to get out a telescope. All you need to start stargazing is a nice wide open spot (like your backyard, the top of your Real Wood Adventures™ playset, or your local park). Best of all, the constellations that are visible in the night sky are constantly changing throughout the year, so your family can look for new constellations every time you go out stargazing.
Searching for Planets, Asteroids, Comets, and Meteors
Depending on the time of year, there are tons of different objects your family can find in the night sky with their bare eyes. Kids can also see other planets in our solar system, comets, asteroids, or meteor showers in the night sky depending on the day. Seeing your kids’ faces light up with joy when they see their first meteor shower will absolutely be worth the wait.
Observing the Moon
The moon is usually the biggest, brightest thing in the night sky and contains tons of interesting little details on its surface. NASA put together a handy Moon Viewing Guide for the whole family that breaks down the moon’s different features, explains its phases, and includes tons of fun activities for your kids to do while they’re stargazing.
Making a D.I.Y. Telescope
Your kids can take their stargazing to the next level with a D.I.Y. telescope. National Geographic put together this handy guide to create a simple telescope out of a cardboard tube and a few household ingredients. Let your kids tinker with the lenses and try to improve their telescopes every time you go out stargazing to turn this into an activity that can last for days or even weeks.
Though there are tons of different things your kids can spot in the night sky, looking at the universe through a telescope (or looking at images from the Hubble Space Telescope) is a surefire way to take their breath away and ignite their curiosity. Most telescopes you can order online or get in stores are powerful enough to show you some nearby galaxies, the planets of our solar system, or even the moon up close and personal. Using a telescope is a great way to get a really impressive view of the night sky.
What to Look for in a Telescope
If you’re looking for an affordable telescope to take your family’s stargazing to the next level, there are a few things you want to look for:
An aperture of about four inches, which lets your telescope capture enough light to see thousands of stars at a reasonable price
An easy-to-use tripod stand so you can set it up and adjust it to your kids’ height without too much hassle
Slow motion or smooth tracking controls, which lets you adjust the direction and focus of the telescope without too much jostling about
Included magnifying lenses or eyepieces so you can enhance the images you capture as you go
Many telescopes that are available only for around $100 have these features, but you should obviously find the right telescope for your family.
Pick a Favorite Spot to do all Your Stargazing From
To get the most out of your stargazing experience, you should try to go back to the same spot(s) every time. Whether that’s just your backyard, a balcony, your kids’ favorite park, or the deck of their Real Wood Adventures playset, going to the same spot every time you stargaze lets your kids see how the universe is constantly moving around them. The moon, other planets, and even constellations are always moving, so you’re in for new sights every time your family goes out stargazing. Encourage your kids to keep a journal of the different things they see, draw the phases of the moon, or record their stargazing anyway else you can think of.
Get outside and do some stargazing! Remember to make a wish if you see a shooting star, and don’t forget to snap some photos of your kids as they’re stargazing. Make sure to tag us when you post your photos (@OfficialLittleTikes on Instagram, @LittleTikes everywhere else on social media)!
At Little Tikes, we don’t just make toys, we make play. Looking for more great active play ideas? Check out www.LittleTikes.com for all our latest play tips & tricks!