Lie Back, Look Up

Family adventures with the night sky

Lie Back, Look Up - Family adventures with the night sky

Stargazing Snacks

Here at Lie Back, Look Up, you will find plenty of stargazing and astronomy activities to do with your family.  Many of these activities include a free printable, as well as tutorials and videos.  Please let me know in the comments how your family has enjoyed these activities!

Getting kids excited about stargazing is important if you want to inspire a love for the night sky.  One way to do this is to involve them in gathering and making the snacks for your stargazing session.  Of course any favorite snacks will do, but for younger children, helping to make “themed” snacks can add a level of excitement.

Each of these snacks can be made by small children, with the assistance of an adult– my two oldest children (7 and 4.5) have both helped me to make these. While working together, each snack allows for discussion of an astronomy topic. These treats are also ideal for packing up and eating later, which is important if you are going to take them stargazing!

Meteorite Krispie Treats

Seeing a meteor shoot across the sky (often called a “shooting star“) is a very special thing to catch in the night sky. When these particles fall to the ground, we call them meteorites. Most meteorites (86%) are the rocky type, called chondrites.  These are usually about 4.5 billion years old, and represent leftover material from the formation of our solar system. For more information on meteorites, check out the meteorite hunting show, Meteorite Men on the Science Channel.

For this easy treat, just follow the directions on the back of your favorite rice cereal box. Instead of pressing the mixture into a pan, let it cool slightly and have your children form it into meteorite-shaped lumps. Be sure to butter your child’s hands first, or you’ll have a very sticky mess on your hands– literally! While making these, we discussed the many different sizes of meteorites and how fun it would be to be a “meteorite hunter”. Once these have cooled, they pack up nicely for your stargazing trip.

 

Lunar Phase Sandwiches

This is another very simple snack to assemble, with a great topic to discuss with your kids while you are making it– lunar phases. There are many great sites out there describing the different phases of the moon. I especially love this video, made by an elementary class for a science project. Beyond learning the names of the phases, I think that one of the most important concepts to understand in astronomy is WHY we see different phases of the moon.  This is a concept that I will cover in a later post (along with activities), but for a good introduction, try one of these on-line explanations. Be sure to stress to your kids that lunar phases are a result of different parts of the moon being lit up as it’s orbiting the earth, having NOTHING to do with the earth’s shadow on the moon.

For this snack, assemble your child’s favorite sandwich (ours are peanut butter & jelly), and then cut each out with a large cup. At this point, all of your sandwiches will be “full moons”. Next you can use the same cup to cut a few into crescent and gibbous moons, and a knife to cut a few into quarter moons. For older children, you can set the sandwiches out in order of the occurring phases, from new to full moon.

Constellation Cookies

This is a great snack to bring to a family stargazing session. Kids love making cookies, especially when they get to use their creativity to decorate them. You can decorate your cookie bars with the seasonal constellations that you will be viewing, or let your children use their imaginations and make up their own constellations.

Begin with your favorite bar cookie recipe (I like to double this one), but be sure to go very light on the amount of chocolate chips that you add into the dough. After pouring the dough into the pan and smoothing the top, use chocolate chips to design your constellation. You can do the entire sky (using a seasonal sky map), or focus on one or two of your favorite constellations. My seven year-old used our Summer Sky Map (kids version) to make Scorpius, and my four year-old made up her own constellation.

You can use this same idea with individual cookies, icing each one and then decorating it with chocolate chips or sprinkles. A healthier version would be to make a pan of granola bars and decorate with raisins, or spread rice cakes with peanut butter and decorate with blueberries.

Solar System Fruit Kebabs

For a healthy snack, gather your favorite fruit to make these delicious kebabs. Use any spherical fruit, or scoop different types of melon with a melon baller. We used green and purple grapes, watermelon and cantaloupe.

Your children can assemble them using bamboo skewers. Point out the different sizes of fruit, and discuss how different the terrestrial (Mercury, Venus, Earth & Mars) and Jovian (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus & Neptune) planets are in size. You can also decide which planets are most similar to the different fruit in color. Do you have any extra-small spheres, maybe blueberries? Those could be dwarf planets Pluto, Ceres, Makemake, Eris or Haumea. If you were to make the solar system to scale, the Earth would be the size of a blueberry and the Sun would be the size of the entire watermelon!

Help me celebrate the launch of Lie Back, Look Up (free printable & a giveaway!)

To celebrate the official launch of Lie Back, Look Up, I am offering a free printable and a giveaway! This is a website that I’ve been dreaming about for awhile, and I’m so very excited to finally get it off the ground. I hope you all have as much fun visiting here as I do sharing my ideas.

As a “thank you” for helping me launch, I invite you to download these free constellation cards. These can be printed and enjoyed over and over again with your family. They will be available free-of-charge throughout the month of July.

The constellation cards are a great way to encourage your kids in their love of the stars. There are many uses for children (and adults!) of all ages. Here are a few ideas on how to use the cards:

  • as flashcards to learn the constellations
  • blow them up and use them as decorations in a children’s room or a nursery
  • as seating cards at a birthday party (as seen here)

You could also print two sets of the cards, using just the side with the constellation picture (leaving the backside blank) and try the following:

  • use them as a Memory game
  • play Old Maid or Go Fish
  • have your kids write their own myth for each constellation on the back

Three lucky winners will be receiving a free planisphere. A planisphere, also known as a star wheel, is a great basic tool to have for stargazing. You just have to spin the disk to match up the time and date that you are stargazing, and it will show you which constellations you should see in the night sky.

To be entered into the random drawing, just leave a comment with your email address (in the “email” field in the comment form). For an extra entry, share this post via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest (you can use one of the buttons at the bottom of this post), and let me know that you did so in a separate comment. For a third entry, subscribe to this blog and let me know in the comments as well. If you win, I’ll email you to ask for your latitude so I can make sure to get you the correct planisphere for your location.

Comments will close on this post on Friday, July 20 at 1 PM EST. Winners will be announced on Monday, July 23.

Good luck in the planisphere giveaway, enjoy the cards and don’t forget to Lie Back, Look Up!

Family Stargazing Activity for July– Stargazing Diary

Here at Lie Back, Look Up, you will find monthly stargazing and astronomy activities to do with your family.  Many of these activities include a free printable, as well as tutorials and videos.  Please let me know in the comments how your family has enjoyed these activities!

One important thing to remember when stargazing with children is that you need to give them something to “do”.  Many children will become bored with just looking up at the sky, so bringing along an activity is very important to keeping their attention.

 

stargazingdiary

A stargazing journal is an important tool for amateur and seasoned astronomers.  Establishing a record of your sky observations is a great habit to instill in children, and can also be a lot of fun.  I’ve included a link below for a Stargazing Diary to print-off and use with your kids.  As always, it’s important to model this for your children– bring along a blank notebook that you plan on using for your Stargazing Diary.

On each page there is a section for a drawing of their observations, as well as writing-prompts below each observation.  These prompts can make for great discussion on many astronomy basics.  I would make several copies of the last page to include in your child’s Stargazing Diary– it will allow for general observation time and time again.

Click the link below to download your free Stargazing Diary.

Stargazing Diary Printable

You may print our activities for your own personal, non-commercial use. Our printables may not be hosted on any other web site, blog, forum, etc.