Enabling Environments: Let's explore ... the sun, moon and stars

Outer space is a fascinating topic, and technological advances mean that we can now see it in great detail. The following ideas bring the sun, moon and stars into the early years setting.


Use the internet to source close-up pictures of the sun, moon and stars.

Adult role

  • Gather together a collection of good-quality images of the sun, moon and stars.
  • Project these images on to an interactive whiteboard for the children to examine and discuss.
  • Moon: Ask the children what they think the moon is made out of. Look at the craters and ask the children to think about how they were created. Demonstrate this using a large tray filled with flour. Gently throw stones into the flour to produce craters. Can the children imagine what it might be like to stand on the moon? What would they be able to see? Would it be dark or light? Show them some images of the moon landing and views of the Earth from space to stimulate thinking and ideas.
  • Sun: Ask the children what they think the sun is made out of. Look at some images that show solar flares. Can the children think of anything else that they have seen that looks the same? Have they ever been to a bonfire or do they have an open fire at home? Light a candle. Can the children describe what the flame looks like and how it is moving? Help them to consider the properties of fire and whether it would be possible to fly to the sun. Ask them to consider if they would get close enough? If so, would they be able to land?
  • Stars: Before showing any images of real stars, show a typical cartoon picture of a star with five points. Are any of the children able to share their experience of looking at the night's sky? Do stars really look like this? Show an image of a star-filled sky. What do the stars actually look like? Look at some close-up images of stars. Talk about the shapes and colours of each.
  • Extend the activity by providing paints, glitter and paper for the children to create their own pictures of the sun, moon and stars. Print off real images and stick them around the craft area.

Possible learning outcomes

UW Commenting and asking questions about aspects of the natural world

EAD Using paints competently and choosing colours for a particular purpose.


Demonstrate how the stars look small because they are far away.

Adult role

  • Ask the children to think back to the discussion about the sun, moon and stars. Show them some of the pictures again. Ask them to consider how big they think the sun, moon and stars are. Compare close-up pictures to some taken with less magnification. Encourage the children to think about the differences between the images. Look at a picture of the night sky and ask the children to think about why stars look so small. Why can't we see the craters on the moon without a telescope?
  • Make some large stars using card covered in tinfoil. Take small groups of children outside to a large space. Give out the stars to half of the children and ask them to walk away from the other children. Get them to stop about half way and hold their stars up. Do the stars look the same size now that they are not up close? Ask the children with the stars to move further away. How big do the stars look now? Swap the children over and repeat the exercise.
  • Introduce telescopes and binoculars. Allow the children to take turns and use the magnifying equipment to see bigger images of the stars. Ask the children if they can explain what is happening.
  • Explain that this is the type of equipment that enables astronomers to see the real stars and moon up close.
  • Ask the children to consider why we do not look directly at the sun. Refer to the photographs of the sun and explain that astronomers use special equipment to take these pictures without damaging their eyes.

Possible learning outcomes

M Using everyday language to talk about size, position and distance

UW Talking about why things happen.


Set up a role-play observatory.

Adult role

  • In the role-play area, cover an entire wall with black poster paper. Stick an image of the moon, as well as close-up images of real stars, constellations and galaxies on the wall. Label each one.
  • Show the children some pictures of large telescopes and some real examples of smaller hand-held versions. Look at the features of a telescope and talk about how it works. Give the children some magnifying glasses to help illustrate.
  • Provide junk and craft materials and help the children to make telescopes for pretend star gazing.
  • Join the children's play. Ask them to describe what they can see. Read the labels on each star for them.
  • Add children's own paintings of the stars to the wall. Ask them to suggest names for their stars and label them.

Possible learning outcomes

EAD Engaging in imaginative role play and using available resources to create props to support play.


Twinkle, Twinkle

Sing the rhyme. The Puppet Company has produced an accompanying finger puppet that is available on Amazon. There are also several picture book versions of this nursery rhyme. These all offer a little extra:

  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Annie Kubler (Child's Play International) - this book provides the British Sign Language signs to accompany the words.
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Little Learners (Parragon) - designed for babies and younger children, this book contains buttons that produce light and sound.
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Pauline Siewert (Ladybird Sing-along) - this version has a sound button that plays the tune.

More ideas

  • Go outside for a moonwalk. Watch some video footage of the moon landing and talk about how the astronauts are moving. Talk about the lack of gravity and its effects. Find some footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing on the NASA website (www.nasa.gov/multimedia/hd/apollo11.html).
  • Involve the children in creating a role-play space craft for flying to the moon.
  • Set up a time-lapse camera facing south and focusing on the sky. Set the camera to take a photograph once an hour or half hour for three days. The camera will capture the path of the sun and the moon as they travel across the sky each day and night. Upload the photos to an animation program such as Windows Movie Maker or iMovie and play it back to the children.
  • Hang various light-catching objects in a sunny spot or in the outdoor area - for example, old CDs, metal chains and cutlery. Find a crystal sun catcher from TTS (www.tts-group.co.uk).



Gather the following resources to support the suggested activity ideas:

Up close

  • Black sugar paper,
  • a variety of coloured poster paints and
  • glitters, paint brushes.

Getting it all in perspective

  • Large sheets of card,
  • tinfoil,

Star gazing

  • Black poster paper,
  • pictures of the moon and stars,
  • kitchen roll tubes,
  • boxes and other junk for modelling,
  • sellotape,
  • scissors.


How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers - a beautifully illustrated book about a little boy who tries to catch a star.

Sun, Moon and Stars (Usborne Beginners) by Stephanie Turnbull - simple information book with good-quality pictures and web links.

I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis and Alison Jay - a rhyming and rhythmical story about a little boy who takes the moon for a walk. Includes an information section about the phases of the moon.

Whatever Next by Jill Murphy - classic picture book about a bear that flies to the moon.

Laura's Star by Klaus Baumgart - this picture book is available with a CD and tells the story of a little girl who finds a broken star, which she takes home to mend.

Stella to Earth! by Simon Puttock and Philip Hopman - a little girl takes an imaginary trip to the moon when she should be going to bed.

Marianne Sargent is a writer specialising in early years education and a former foundation stage teacher and primary and early years lecturer

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