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. Around the summer solstice (June 20-21), Mother Nature offers an event that provides a wonderful way for kids to observe and learn more about the moon.
Summer daylight may extend beyond usual bedtime hours - but if you stay up a little later, the kids can see this phenomenon (occurring in the northern hemisphere) on Sunday, June 23, 2013. According to NASA's science newsletter...
Sometimes you can't believe your eyes. This week is one of those times. On Sunday night, June 23rd, step outside at sunset and look around. You'll see a giant moon rising in the east. It looks like Earth's moon with the usual craters and seas, but something's wrong. This full moon is strangely inflated. It's huge! You've just experienced the "Super Moon Illusion." Sky watchers have known for thousands of years that low-hanging moons look unnaturally big. Cameras don't see it, but human eyes do; it's a genuine illusion.
You can find more information about this at: EarthSky Science News
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
- Moon Exploration (Simple, but with more facts.)
- The Moon - our neighbour
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.
- The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons
In this story targeted for ages 4-8, primary readers will explore, answers to their questions about our planet's closest natural companion: its origins and phases, what causes tides and eclipses, the people and spacecraft that have been sent there, and even some of the stories and beliefs it has inspired. The author includes directions for making a simple solar eclipse viewer and finishes with a chronology, a sampling of moon legends and lore, and a page of additional facts.
- 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."
- What Makes Day and Night by Franklyn M. Branley
(Ages 2-4) If your child has an interest science, they will enjoy this book. It combines colorful drawings with actual photographs to explane the earth's rotation in a simple, understandable way. This book provides a good first introduction to the subject, which is neither too technical, nor so diluted as to be called bland.
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...
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 colorful glow-in-the-dark star stickers.
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!
Find More Summer Fun!
- Celebrate Summer!
- Summer Activities For Little Ones
- Summer Learning Fun!
- Discretionary Playtime Needed!
- Learning Calendar