Children naturally love learning about the solar system. The sun, moon, stars and planets are fascinating to both small children who see stars twinkle in the night sky at night and older children who begin to ask harder questions such as "are there other planets with life?" or "are there other solar systems like ours?" Using a combination of illustrations, books, videos, worksheets and crafts would be an excellent way to introduce children to simple concepts and lessons on the solar system as well as more advanced concepts. The most important thing when putting together a solid lesson or series of lessons on the solar system is to make sure the source references are reliable, accurate and trusted by fact checking and researching your sources before presenting learning materials on the solar system to children.
Teach children the planets of our solar system starting with the planet closest to the sun, Mercury. It is best to teach children the planets in order because it will help them memorize better just like starting with A when teaching the alphabet.
Use an illustration, poster or drawing to introduce or review the planets. A link to a set of pictures of the planets in order is included under Additional Resources.
Sciencing Video Vault
Select a video on the sun, moon, stars and planets or share a solar system song to engage children and get them more interested in learning details about the solar system.
There are several solar system songs on video available online free. See Additional Resources for a link to solar system video and song clips. Be sure to always check the videos and songs for accurate facts and appropriateness before playing any in front of children or in a classroom.
Complete an age-appropriate solar system set of activities, worksheets and crafts. An activity and craft combination can be created for any grade level.
Common activities include coloring the planets, putting the planets in order and creating a mobile of the solar system. Easier activities for younger children can include learning to write the letter M on a moon worksheet or A for astronaut. More challenging solar system activities can include creating a larger model of the solar system to scale. Group activities can include around the world using flash cards of the planets or splitting the children into groups, each holding one planet picture and having groups compete on who can get into the "correct" order first.
Wrap up the solar system lesson with a video that is more in depth than the introduction materials or that reviews the material. After children complete all the other activities, they will be ready to learn more about the exciting solar system.
Higher level videos and clips on the solar system, galaxies, planets and stars can be watched by small children if the graphics are colorful or the video has a child-friendly tune in the background because the children will enjoy the colorful introduction to more challenging concepts.
Create a method to test the competency of the children after learning about the solar system.
Small children can be asked to label basics such as the moon, stars, Earth and sun. Older children can be asked to put the planets in order after given time to study the materials. Children can also be asked to create a report, story, song or model to test competency, which can be graded using a standard shared with the students before the assignment is turned in. Children can also be quizzed or tested on the solar system information they were taught.
Consider teaching about the solar system for an entire week or even a monthlong unit. Use the solar system topic to get young children, especially boys, interested in reading.
Don't play any videos to children or in the classroom without watching the entire video or clip to make sure they are completely appropriate. Don't rush children when learning the planets or about the solar system; there is a lot of information for them to learn.