Exploring outer space with children can be a fascinating activity, especially if you use experiments. Younger children especially can find the topic of outer space difficult because it is difficult for them to relate to something so far out of their reach. Experiments can help make the topic easier to understand. There are plenty of such experiments that help illustrate a number of outer space topics, such as craters, moonlight, gravity and air.
Teach children about meteorites with this simple experiment. Meteorites are chunks of natural rock originating in outer space. When they collide with a planet or moon, they leave a huge crater. Using binoculars, you can see the craters caused by meteorites on the surface of the moon. To create your own craters, pour flour into a baking tray or similar container until it is about 2 to 3 inches deep. Drop a marble or stone into the flour. When you remove your "meteorite," you will see that it has left a crater in the flour.
Bouncing and Reflecting
Moonlight is created when the light from the sun bounces off the moon. When light hits a surface, some of that light is reflected, or bounces off the surface. In a dark room, place a lit torch on a table. Hold a mirror in front of the light from the torch and you will see that you can easily reflect the light from the torch. Now place a ball or other object close by and see if you can adjust the mirror to reflect the light onto the ball. Continue this experiment, seeing if you can get the light to reflect onto different objects around the room.
The earth's gravity is constantly trying to pull everything to its center. This is why you walk on the earth's surface rather than float above it. There is no gravity in space, which is why astronauts float in space. Lie face down on a chair, with your stomach right on the seat and your head hanging down off the edge. Now try to drink from a glass of water. You will find this very difficult because you have changed your center of gravity. When we eat and drink normally, gravity helps the food travel down our throat. When we lie down and change our center of gravity, we mimic the absence of gravity in space.
Air is all around us, and we need it to survive, but we cannot see it. Air can move and even cause other things to move. Tape a piece of tracing paper onto the window when there are clouds in the sky. Choose a cloud and use a pencil to trace around its shape onto the tracing paper. Wait a few minutes, and then go back to the tracing paper on the window and trace around the same cloud again, using a different colored pencil this time. Has your cloud moved? What do you think caused it to move?