EYFS Activities - Let’s explore…space

Marianne Sargent
Monday, January 25, 2016

Tim Peake’s space mission is a great hook for getting children interested in astronomy. By Marianne Sargent

British astronaut Tim Peake’s expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) has captured the imaginations of children all over Britain and has inspired two early years settings to find out more about living and working in space.



Roseacre, a 24-place playgroup, planned six weeks of intergalactic activities at the end of last term, culminating in a space-themed Christmas party and a live screening of Peake’s launch.

Deputy manager Lynda Carter explains staff planned the topic around picture books to foster creative thought and help the children grasp some more difficult concepts about space. ‘We like to use books for our topics because it’s something the children can relate to,’ she says.

A favourite book was Welcome to Alien School by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves, which tells the story of a little boy who finds himself at a school for aliens. ‘We set up desks, sat aliens on chairs and had books about humans for them to study. We also cut out shapes of different aliens, and the children sponge-painted them in purple with green spots, then stuck goggly eyes all over them.’

Over the six weeks they read stories including Man on the Moon by Simon Bertram and Bringing Down the Moon by Jonathan Emmett and Vanessa Cabban. The children acted them out and made storyboards and story hats. Staff turned the role-play area into a space station and parents collected and donated bottles, cardboard boxes and tin foil for the children to make space ships, rockets, flying saucers and aliens.

The children also learned about the difference between day and night and found out about the solar system using a planetarium and projector. ‘We turned all the lights off and projected pictures of the moon landing and the planets on the ceiling,’ says Mrs Carter. ‘The children all lay on their backs and we had music playing. They were naming the planets and drawing them.’

space2Roseacre, recently judged Outstanding by Ofsted, is situated in a local cricket pavilion, and Mrs Carter describes the novel way they overcome the problem of being a pack-away setting. ‘We are quite into our shower curtains,’ she says. ‘We hang them on the curtain rails in front of windows, and every Monday we put new ones up that depict different scenes. It’s a great way of changing the room, because although we have some mobile displays, we can’t put static displays up. We had space-themed curtains hanging and the children were looking at the planets through telescopes they had made from cardboard tubes.’

On launch day, staff set up a party table covered in silver space blankets. Each child was given a space-themed picnic box and an alien balloon and they watched the launch live on a big screen. ‘They seemed to take it in and were really interested,’ says Mrs Carter. ‘We’d been talking about it so much over the previous weeks that they were fascinated when we were watching the launch, they just thought it was amazing.’

Parents were also invited to join the party, where they were treated to a performance by the children, who sang songs about gravity and space travel. ‘They were quite blown away by it,’ says Mrs Carter. ‘They really were impressed.’


space4The Mill Nursery is an Outstanding 34-place nursery situated in the grounds of St Vigor and St John Church of England VA Primary School. They too watched the live launch and plan to follow Tim Peake throughout his space mission and celebrate his safe return to Earth in five months’ time.

‘The children really enjoyed the launch and set about making their own rockets on the day,’ says childcare manager Laura Southwell. ‘We made big rockets out of cardboard boxes and the children sat inside them with colanders on their heads like in the story Whatever Next!.’

Building on the children’s interests, Miss Southwell then contacted the local children’s centre and borrowed a space resource pack so they could create a role-play space station.

‘We’ve made the role-play area quite dark and put a computer and headphones in there,’ she explains. ‘In the pack are alien and astronaut costumes and an inflatable solar system that we’ve hung just outside the area. The children have also made their own stars, so it’s as if they are looking out of a rocket window at outer space.

‘It’s really brought up our outcomes for mark-making as well because there are printed space words up in there and the children are writing their own words to stick up. We plan to write space stories later in the term, and those will be displayed in there too.

‘It’s such a great topic. It’s been absolute awe and wonder for them. I walked in this morning and the girls were sitting reading a story and one of the little boys was just lying on his back looking up at the planets with his mouth open. It was beautiful to see.’

The Mill has strong links with the neighbouring primary school and the children have been able to visit the school library and borrow some information books about space. ‘They have loved finding out about stars and gravity,’ says Miss Southwell. ‘One child came in and said the moon controls the water and we couldn’t believe how it was really going in. They’re really engaged in this.’

The nursery is also planning to try to connect with Tim Peake using social media so the children can show him what they have been doing and ask him some questions.

‘We’re going to follow what he does,’ says Miss Southwell. ‘He’s doing the space walk today and the children are going to watch that. We’ll also watch the astronauts again on the whiteboard and ask the children if they have any questions. We are limited on a tweet so we’ll do one question every so often and maybe send some pictures as well.’

When Tim returns to Earth in June, the nursery plans to have an end of topic space party with a picnic on the moon. ‘All the parents will be invited as well,’ says Miss Southwell.

Follow Tim Peake

It is possible to follow Tim Peake on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Instagram. He regularly posts with updates on how he is adjusting to life on the International Space Station and shares his thoughts and feelings about different aspects of his work.

For more information and links to his social media pages, go to http://timpeake.esa.int




space5Look Inside Space by Rob Lloyd Jones and Benedetta Giaufret Lift-the-flap information book with a section about what goes on in the International Space Station.

Living in Space by Katie Daynes Simple information book about the life of an astronaut.

A Journey Through Space by Steve Parker and John Haslam Information book that takes the reader on a virtual journey through space.

Roaring Rockets by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker Rhythmical rhyming information book with colouring illustrations.

space6Goodnight Spaceman by Michelle Robinson and Nick East Two little boys go on a dreamy adventure in space.

The King of Space by Jonny Duddle A small boy begins a quest to be the king of space.

Bringing Down the Moon by Jonathan Emmett and Vanessa Cabban A mole tries to capture the moon.



space5CBeebies interactive space activities and games, www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/topics/space

Selection of space rhymes and songs, www.tes.com/teaching-resource/space-song-book-3013197

Tim Peake's launch into space, www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSfYdr8Oj9w

Rocket Game, Rockets and Comets game and Who's in Space? puzzle, www.orchardtoys.com

Sensory mini spinner: hand-held torch that shines multi-coloured lights, www.sensetoys.com

Sensory mood shapes, light-up kit, light-up liquid floor tiles, www.eduzone.co.uk

Spectacular Space small-world kit, www.yellow-door.net

Lunar scene role-play background, www.tts-group.co.uk

Melissa and Doug astronaut costumes, www.argos.co.uk

Deep-space planetarium and projector – available with Sainsbury's Active Kids vouchers,https://activekids.sainsburys.co.uk/active-kids-products/product/S4A02433

Planning for Learning Through Space by Rachel Sparks Linfield, www.practicalpreschoolbooks.com

Download the PDF

Nursery World Print & Website

  • Latest print issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Free monthly activity poster
  • Themed supplements

From £11 / month


Nursery World Digital Membership

  • Latest digital issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Themed supplements

From £11 / month


© MA Education 2021. Published by MA Education Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, London SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales no. 04002826. MA Education is part of the Mark Allen Group. – All Rights Reserved