space activities

Space Activities #3: Nursery Rhymes and Language Learning for Kids

Today’s play-of-the-day, nursery rhymes language learning for kids, is inspired by the photos the space probe Juno is sending back of Jupiter’s moons. Since there are 4 of them, would kids on Jupiter have to add a few words?

nursery rhymes language learningHey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon, and the moon, and the moon, and the moon.

The little dog laughed to see such sport and
The dish ran away with the fork, and the knife, and the cup, and the spoon.

Nursery rhymes are special packages of language. They are based on repetition and words that rhyme. Learning any language is a huge challenge for children and takes years. Listening to and saying nursery rhymes helps the brain connect to the patterns and the rhythm that are part of a language.

The ideas in a nursery rhymes are often quite silly. Who has ever heard of a cow jumping over the moon? These bits of nonsense capture attention and encourage really listening. What else might happen? When we read about dishes running away with spoons kids create pictures in their mind. This is called visualizing and is a valuable thinking and information processing strategy.

Do you remember any nursery rhymes? Besides Hey Diddle Diddle, there’s Jack and Jill, Little Boy Blue, Little Bo Peep, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Hickory Dickory Dock, Humpty Dumpty, Jack Be Nimble, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and dozens more. There are many Mother Goose books and resources on line too. Choose a few and share them with your child. You can change the names of the characters, such as Jack and Jill to the name of your child and a brother, sister, or friend to make it more personal.

space activities for kidsWhile not as old as space, nursery rhymes have been around for hundreds of years. Maybe it’s time for some newer ones.

Jack and Jill went to space,
To check on other planets.
They found some rocks and moons and rings,
And plenty of very hot gases.

What ones can you and your child add for nursery rhymes language learning?

Space Activities #2: Juno Straw Rockets

Today’s play-of-the-day, Juno straw rockets, is a space activity from earlier this year but worth doing again. Have you checked out any of the images–and sounds, from Juno? They are amazing but the story of how it got there is pretty amazing too. Not being a rocket scientist, it’s hard for us to wrap our minds around how it all works. But it’s fun to play with making objects move.

One way to make a rocket move is by jet propulsion, that is  using a jet or stream of something. In this activity of Juno straw rockets, the stream is a breath of air. To make these:

“…you will need paper, scissors, tape, and a straw. Cut a sheet of regular, photocopy paper in half along the hamburger fold. (If you fold a paper in half to make 2 long skinny sections, that’s the hotdog fold. If you fold it to make 2 wide rectangles, that’s the hamburger fold.)

straw rocket science funOn one half, kids can trace around a small jar lid to make 2 or 3 circles. With the other half, kids carefully roll the paper around the straw 3 or 4 times. The excess can get cut off and then the paper on the straw attached together with tape. Adult hands might need to start the rolling so the paper stays down. Check to make sure none of the paper is taped to the straw.

straw rocket science funMake sure the paper is at the edge of the straw. If possible, kids cut out the traced circles. Fold a circle in half and place over the end of the straw. Tape it to the paper rolled around the straw. Now, for the fun part. Take a deep breath, close mouth around the other end of the straw and blow. What happens? Did anybody see the straw shooting off the end? (If the rocket doesn’t go, check that kids aren’t holding the paper part on the straw. Fingers only touch the plastic straw, not the rocket.)

straw rocket science funWe made several of these and the kids colored them too. Once, testing it out, a rocket got Little Sister in the knee. After that, she decided the game was to try and blow the rocket far enough to land on a person instead of the floor. She could barely close her mouth for laughing. Big Sister enjoyed trying to make rockets land on various pieces of furniture. There was some adult help to make the rockets, but the play was definitely self-directed.”

This was so simple and fun. Where might your Juno straw rockets orbit today?

Space Activities #1: Sky Watching for Kids

The solar spacecraft Juno intersected with the planet Jupiter. This exciting news has inspired the play-of-the-day: sky watching for kids, both big and little. Binoculars can add to the fun, but aren’t necessary.

sky watching for kids

During the summer isn’t the best time to see stars and space, unless you live in the southern half of the world instead of the northern. For those way up north, at this time of year there is no night, but there’s still lots to see in the day. Before going outside, ask your child what you might see in the sky. This is sort of like preheating the oven. It starts kids thinking about their past experiences and collecting the bits they already know about skies. You can tease your child with silly suggestions such as, “I think I’ll see a car in the sky.” Of course, kids know cars are on the road so they may giggle or gleefully correct you. Maybe there will be a flying boat?

Once outside, check out what is in the sky. Are there any clouds today? Is the sky sunny or rainy? Any birds, kites, or airplanes? The stars or moon? Where do they go in the daytime? Kids ask about 300 questions a day so be prepared and ask some of your own

Some kids may have been up late already watching fireworks at night, but if they don’t have to go to bed early, take some time and check out the sky at night. It looks very different. The weather may be warm enough that kids can take a towel or blanket and pillow to the backyard or deck and watch for shooting stars outside. There could be other objects and lights moving in the night sky. Kids might be able to see pictures and shapes in the stars.

sky watching for kids

Out of all the things in the sky, isn’t it amazing that a spacecraft from Earth could even find Jupiter, let alone land? Great achievement NASA. What better way to celebrate than by sky watching for kids and marveling?