The sky is filled with fantasy and wonder that can stir the imagination. You can look up at those amazing stars for hours and contemplate the universe. Why not share this stargazing experience with your children?
Benefits of Stargazing with Children
Inspiring curiosity. Looking up at a night sky full of stars fills your child with wonder and delight. It sparks their imagination and their curiosity. So many questions pop into their fertile minds.
* What are the stars?
* How did they get there?
* How far away are they?
* Who put them there?
* What are they made of?
* Do you think we are the only intelligent life that can see them?
This gives you not only great insight into the mind of your children; it also gives you a valuable teaching moment. You can teach not only about science and astronomy but looking up to the sky also lends itself to wonderful religious and spiritual teaching moments.
One of my favorite movies ever is Contact with Jodi Foster. The reason I love it, beyond the facts that is it is an awesome movie and it based on the work of Carl Sagan… is because I identified with the little girl in it. When I was 8-10 years old I wanted to be an astronomer or an astronaut more than anything. Unfortunately a math teacher killed my dream by telling me I was not good enough at math to go into those fields. Once I heard that, I stopped looking at the stars so much AND carried around a stigma about math. :( But in Contact the little girl gets support and encouragement in her dreams and she ends up working for SETI and making first contact with an alien race. Even if your child envisions a future that has nothing to do with actual stars, the vast expanse of space and stars represent a world full of possibilities.
Creating memories. What is your fondest childhood memory? For many, it’s that special one on one time with their parent(s). Stargazing provides you with that opportunity to connect with your children.
Calming. Children are so busy today they barely have time to think. If they’re not in school, they’re doing homework, playing sports, going to scouts and other after school activities, and hanging out with friends then they’re watching television, surfing the net or playing computer games. There’s very little time made for quiet.
Yet quiet time is exactly what children and adults need. Studies have shown that spending time simply looking at the sky or taking a walk in nature improves concentration, boost mood and generate feelings of well-being.
Getting Started Stargazing with Children
In order to create a memorable stargazing experience you’ll need to take a few steps. To begin with, you’ll need a comfortable place to lie down – grab a blanket and locate a place to stargaze.
If your children are younger, you may want to grab a few snacks. Decide in advance if you’re going to look at constellations. If you are, you may want to find a few pictures of the constellations show your children know what they’re looking for. Create a list of things to look find in the sky, like the North Star, Venus, the Milky Way and so on. Having a list seems to get the ball rolling and once you get them searching the night sky, they’ll take the ball and run with it.
If you have a telescope, then you can really focus on a few astronomical features, like exploring the craters on the moon.
Stargazing with your children is more than a learning opportunity, though it certainly is that, it also provides you a wonderful opportunity to connect with your children, to help them grow and foster a sense of well-being. Grab that blanket and get out there tonight!
Recommended Reading: Stargazing Basics: Getting Started in Recreational Astronomy