Have Fun with The Summer Moon Illusion

Sleep must come to us all...

by: Diane Flynn Keith

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:

Moon Reads

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):

Moon Activities

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.

Moon Eats!

With a little imagination ordinary foods can remind you of the moon...

Moon Crackers

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!

Sugar 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

Moon Dot-To-Dot

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