Adventures of the Non-Creative Mom

December 20, 2011

Latest Space Reads

My daughter’s interest in the Solar System is still going strong and we made another trip to the library this past weekend.  Our latest bed time reads have been:

There’s No Place Like Space by Tish Rabe

I’ve been on the wait list at the library for the longest time and was excited when I found this at the latest Scholastic Warehouse sale.  It was one of the books I gave my daughter as a gift this morning and she couldn’t wait to read it at bed time tonight.  She loved all the other Cat in the Hat books we have read so far so I had a feeling she would enjoy this one.  For the most part it was the same old information about each planet as the rest of the books we have read but the rhyming was nicely done and made it fun to read.  The greatest part of the book was that it just fueled my daughter’s dreams about going into space one day.  If you are looking for a beginning book about the solar system for your preschooler this is a great pick!

The following books were all ones she picked out at the library.

Saturn by Christine Taylor-Butler

This is the third book we have read from Taylor-Butler and we have enjoyed them all.  They are the perfect level for preschoolers who are just beginning to show an interest in the solar system.  Each page has some basic information with wonderful images.  There is also a word hunt list at the beginning of the book for things like “orbit”, “solar system”, etc and I love that the book provides a simple explanation of what each term means.  When we read these books my daughter constantly asks “what do that mean?” when we come across a new term.  Sometimes I admit to being stumped to come up with a simple enough explanation.  The books ends with a short chart comparing things like the length of a year, day, size and number of moons between Earth and Saturn.  It always amazes my daughter when she reads about how many more moons the other planets have compared to Earth.  This is a great series I suggest for the preschool level.

Jupiter by Elaine Landau

My daughter’s latest favorite planet is Jupiter because it is the largest planet.  We have read the Taylor-Butler book about Jupiter as well but what I liked about this one was that there were a few new gems of information.  Like, in addition to the Great Red Spot every other book mentions Landau’s book also mentions the smaller storm, the Little Red Spot, that has changed color from white to red from 2004 to 2006.  I don’t recall reading about this storm in any of the other books so it was something that caught both my daughter’s and my attention.  My daughter loved all the pictures and hearing about Galileo building his own telescope.  She’s been begging me for a telescope to that maybe she can make her own discoveries in space.

While an interesting book it is a little longer and has more words that the Taylor-Butler books so my daughter’s attention did wander at times.  I would suggest this for kids a little older (my daughter’s 4).

Activities to Try

Family of the Sun song: I stumbled across this song that is posted on the Smithsonian site and is sang to the tune of the Farmer in the Dell. It sounds like a catchy tune so I want to try it out with my daughter.  Here’s how it starts off and the chorus:

The Family of the Sun,
Its planets number eight,
Plus other rocky, icy worlds
That we appreciate.

Mercury is hot
and Mercury is small.
Mercury has no atmosphere;
It’s just a rocky ball.

The Family of the Sun,
Its planets number eight,
Plus other rocky, icy worlds
That we appreciate…


December 5, 2011

Moon, craters and getting down and dirty

Ever since my daughter got the book Eight Spinning Planets by Brian James & Russel Benfanti she has been asking me lots of questions about space, the planets, moon, etc that I just can’t remember the answers to.  So where do I turn when I need help?  The library!  We took and trip and browsed through their  astronomy books and she picked out a few along with a couple about the Earth in particular.  Then of course she started begging for some “observation” activities.  Just as a warning this one means letting the kids get down right and dirty.

Here were our favorite books we picked up:

Atlas of the Universe by Mark Garlick: Believe it or not she picked this one out herself. I tried to tell her it was more for adults (she’s 4) but she insisted and we picked it up about 3 weeks ago we have been reading a few pages every night at bed time and she loves it.  I don’t think she understands it all but everything in it just amazes her.

The Planets in Our Solar System by Franklyn Mansfield Branley: This one talks about the planets and is much more kid friendly.  The only word of warning is that it’s on the older side and still talks about Pluto being a planet.  My daughter and I have already talked about how Pluto is no longer a planet so it didn’t really confuse her although she does feel bad that it’s no longer a planet.

What Makes Day and Night by Franklyn Mansfield Branley: After talking about the planets, orbits and rotation she wanted to know more about why we have night and day and this was a nice book to go through.  Of course since it mentions the moon so often she started asking about craters, visiting the moon, etc.

Earth by Christine Taylor-Butler: This one talks about what the Earth is made of, the continents, volcanos, etc.

After reading all these books she really wanted to do some sort of experiment or observation.  Luckily I stumbled across this activity about recreating craters on the moon’s surface on I think it was Pinterest.  It coincided nicely with my daughter’s latest request to experiment to see what flour mixed with flour would feel like.

First I filled up one of our bins with a couple cups of flour:

Then added a layer of cocoa for some contrast (note for future reference: I left the cocoa kind fo pebbly but I think it might be better to smooth it out before starting the comet portion):

Next we found balls of different sizes and weights to try to see what different size craters they would make when they “impacted our moon”.

We observed how when they hit the “surface” it kicked up a cloud of dust into the air and talked about how this could stay in the air for a really long time.  We also looked at the different size dents and how deep the dents were when we dropped the different size balls.  She dropped them over and over to see how the craters would start to overlap and how it started to look like the surface of the moon.

Then we moved on to the seeing what water and flour mixed together felt like so I thought it prudent to move it outside.  Thank goodness I did.  First off it was great weather and we actually had a great view of the moon and talked about how the different colors were actually craters on the moon.

Then came the dirty phase of fun. Even my 16 month old had a blast.  I gave them a few things out of the kitchen: funnels, measuring cups, bowls, a strainer, etc.

My daughter really enjoyed feeling how gooey the mixture was and talked about how it was a “chocolate lake” (for those with kids who love Dora I’m sure you know what she was referring to.)

Once everything was nice and wet and gooey my daughter decided to see what would happen when our “comets” and “meteors” landed in water.  My son loved helping with this part as you can see.

All in all they both had a lot of fun and I think my daughter is finally satisfied with how all those craters on the moon were created.

October 30, 2011

Eight Spinning Planets by Brian James & Russell Benfanti

My daughter picked this one out when I took her to a Scholastic Warehouse sale and it’s become one of her favorite books.  It has cut outs and raised, plastic, colorful planets and each page gives a short informational paragraph about the planet.  The only cover image I was able to find shows the planets showing up randomly on the cover but the actual copy we had ordered them based on their distance from the Sun.  I was surprised how quickly my daughter memorized each blurb about the planets and would actually start telling me about the planet before I even finished the first sentence on each page.  We would also have discussions about why people could not live on the other planets because they are either too cold, too hot, made out of gas, etc.

She’s been begging for an activity to do with the planets so I had to rack my brain to come up with something.  I was going to cut out felt planets but I wanted something she could really contribute more to.  So I cut out circles for each planet out of tissue paper (knew I was saving them from her birthday gifts for a reason) & construction paper.  I hollowed out the construction paper and glued it to the tissue paper just to make it easier to handle once she started painting.  Then she used water colors to paint each planet.  I told her she could paint them however she wanted but she wanted to follow the book.

Once they were dry I laminated them and we used them on my ghetto, homemade light box.

She then started putting the planets in the order she thought they were from the Sun.

She did amazingly well and just mixed up Jupiter and Saturn and Neptune & Uranus.

I think this book is perfect for the preschooler or kindergartener.  It was fun to read and teaches kids the basics.  It was also interesting that they included Pluto and stated that it was no longer considered a planet.  This was a nice point since she recently watched a Blues Clues episode about planets and that included Pluto.