Have Fun with The Summer Moon Illusion
When my kids were little, I looked at any unusual, natural occurrence as an opportunity to have fun learning. This week Mother Nature offers a summer moon event that provides a wonderful way for kids to learn more about the moon -- or just have fun observing it and doing activities themed around it. The only problem may be that for some families, summer daylight extends beyond regular bedtimes -- so staying up to see the moon can mean a break in ordinary routine.
If you can't stay up late every night, then perhaps you could select one special night this week to stay up a little later so the kids can see this phenomenon (occurring in the northern hemisphere) that begins today, June 20, 2005 and continues all week long. According to NASA's science newsletter....
"The lowest-hanging full moon in 18 years is going to play tricks on you this week! Sometimes you can't believe your eyes. This week is one of those times. Step outside any evening at sunset and look around. You'll see a giant moon rising in the east. It looks like Earth's moon, round and cratered; the Man in the Moon is in his usual place. But something's wrong. This full moon is strangely inflated. It's huge! You've just experienced the Moon Illusion. Sky watchers have known this for thousands of years: moons hanging low in the sky look unnaturally big. Cameras don't see it, but our eyes do. It's a real illusion."
You can find more information about this at: Science at NASA: Summer Moon Illusion
Before taking your child outside to see the humongous full moon, you may want to inform yourself about the moon in a way that will allow you to easily explain it to your child. NASA offers two websites that contain pictures of the moon along with a brief, simple explanation about the moon that you can paraphrase in a way your child may understand at:
- The Moon: Earth's Satellite (Very simple description.) and
- Exploration: The Moon (Simple, but with more facts.)
Now, just because you give your child real information about the moon doesn't mean they won't appreciate whimsical stories about the moon. Here are six great story and picture books with moon themes (read one each night) that will fire up their imaginations (available at your library or through amazon.com):
- Goodnight Moon by
Margaret Wise Brown
This is the classic bedtime story where a child says goodnight to all of the familiar things at home, and says goodnight to the moon as well. I think every family that ever read this story has probably acted out its pages. I know this story inspired my husband and I to take our sons in arms and walk through the house saying goodnight to every stuffed animal, piece of furniture, plant, and of course, we always had to stop at the window and say goodnight to the moon.
- Grandfather Twilight
By Barbara Berger
I think this is one of the very best night-time stories to read with young children. It tells the story of Grandfather Twilight who takes a pearl from his treasure chest each night, and then walks through the woods to perform his magical task of installing the moonlight. The illustrations are awash in moonglow.
- Happy Birthday Moon
by Frank Asch
This beloved tale is about a little bear who thinks the moon is a creature he can talk to. He decides to celebrate Moon's birthday by presenting him with a birthday hat. The story is simple and magical from start to finish.
- Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me
by Eric Carle
You probably know Eric Carle from his books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Very Busy Spider, etc. In this book he uses the same wonderful elements of fold-out pages, holes, pop-ups, textures, extensions, etc., to tell the story of a little girl who asks her farther for the moon. It includes a very long ladder that reaches to the moon and back and a 4-page centerfold of the full moon that is certain to thrill your preschooler.
- When Moon Fell Down
by Linda Smith
This story for ages 3-5, is the tale of how the moon falls down from the sky one night. He meets some farm animals and together they view the world in a whole new way.
- Kitten's First Full Moon
by Kevin Henkes
This story is the winner of the 2005 Caldecott Medal and a New York Times best seller. I haven't seen it yet, but here's a short description from the publisher: "It's a special night for Kitten. Looking out from the porch, she sees it: a bowl of delicious milk in the sky. Actually, it's the first full moon she's seen, but she's determined to lap it up."
Compare and Contrast
While observing this big, beautiful, mysterious full moon be sure to talk about what you see: what shape is the moon, what color is it, does it look smooth or rough, is it low or high in the sky, is it close or far away, is it big or little, is it bright or dull, is it light or dark? Talking about your observations helps your child to understand concepts such as comparing and contrasting opposites -- all important skills for language arts development.
Moon Rhymes With...
While you're at it, try to think of words that rhyme with the word "moon." For example: room, broom, spoon, zoom, noon, soon, croon, balloon -- and although not spelled the same way -- these words sound the same: June and tune. Can you think of others?
How about reciting some Moon Nursery Rhymes...
~The Man In The Moon~
The man in the moon came tumbling down
And asked his way to Norwich;
He went by the south and burnt his mouth
With supping cold pease porridge.
~I See The Moon~
I see the moon,
And the moon sees me;
God bless the moon,
And God bless me!
~The Man In The Moon~
The Man in the moon
Looked out of the moon,
And this is what he said,
It's time that now I'm getting up,
All children went to bed.
Make Your Own Moon
Here are a few variations...
Paper Plate Moon
Take a white paper plate and invite your child to glue oats, rice or other grains and cereals on it to create the crater-like effect of the surface of the moon. Let it dry and hang it high on the wall, or attach it to the ceiling of the bedroom.
Paper Plate Glow In The Dark Moon
Paint one side of a white paper plate with glow-in-the-dark paint. (You can get this at craft stores or online) Let it dry, then expose it to lamp-light for an hour. Put the paper plate on the wall or attach it to the ceiling and turn off the lights. Enjoy the "moonglow."
Glow-In-The-Dark Balloon Moon
Paint a white, inflated, latex balloon (about 9-11") with glow-in-the-dark paint. (Available at craft stores.) Let it dry. Explose it to lamp-light for an hour. Hang the balloon from the ceiling. Turn off the lights and bask in the "moonlight."
Variation: You could get a white balloon inflated with helium and paint it with glow-in-the-dark paint. Then, after exposure to lamp-light, turn the lights off and watch your "moon" float across the room.
Note: When my sons were young, we painted cardboard cut-out star shapes with glow-in the dark paint and attached them to the ceiling in their rooms. It really helped them feel safe in the darkened room as they drifted off to sleep each night. You can purchase glow-in-the-dark star stickers from party supply stores. You can also get them along with glow-in-the-dark moon balls.
With a little imagination ordinary foods can remind you of the moon...
Round rice crackers spread with cream cheese resemble the moon. Use raisins or other bits of dried fruit and nuts to make a man-in-the-moon face.
Pancakes can be made in many shapes to represent the phases of the moon -- from crescent moons to full moons!
Make your favorite batch of round sugar cookies. When they come out of the oven allow them to cool for about 2 minutes. Then roll them in powdered sugar, put them on racks to cool completely. Once completely cooled, roll them in powdered sugar again. Enjoy these melt-in-your-mouth Sugar Moons.
More Moon Activities
Free alphabet dot-to-dot printable of a crescent moon. Print it out, do the dot-to-dot activity, and color it in!
Magical Moon Rocks
For those of you who enjoy the illusion of magic and like to share it with your children, here's a fun idea...
Invite your child to help you find a few small rocks in the yard, or around the neighborhood. Explain that you are going to use the rocks to try to capture some moonglow. Place the rocks in a special place where they will be bathed in the light of the full moon for several nights. Explain that if it works, the rocks may start to glow.
Without giving this secret away -- on the second day, paint the rocks with glow-in-the-dark paint and expose them to bright light. Put them back in the special spot where they can soak up the moonlight. That night, the rocks should glow in the dark.
Show your child the magical moon rocks! Then, hide the rocks in the backyard and invite the family to play a game of moonrock hide-and- seek. :)
Have fun with the moon, and give your little ones a hug for me!
About the Author:
Diane Flynn Keith is recognized nationally and internationally as an expert in education outside the traditional classroom walls. Diane is a featured writer for The Link, a national homeschool newspaper, and the official Carschooling Advisor at homeschool.com. Ms. Keith is a highly sought after speaker at education conferences and seminars where she often presents her Carschooling workshop. Visit UniversalPreschool.com for more informative preschool articles and resources by Diane Flynn Keith.
Reprinted here with permission.
Posted: June 22, 2005