Recently I designed a space exploration unit for a family with 25-month old twin boys. The family asked for this unit because the boys were starting to learn the names of planets and showing an interest in the topic. But not only did the children have a personal interest in the space theme, so did the parents. This was exciting for me, and a huge win for everyone. I believe in tailoring educational topics and materials to your children’s interests. This is a key element of planning. If nothing else, do this, because it’s empowering to find a topic that you and your children are interested in. That way you are more likely to teach this topic with passion, and your kids will catch your enthusiasm!
When I set out to create this unit, I kept in mind the current abilities of the children and where they need to grow. I sought to create well-rounded program that kept in mind the whole child.
When I started to create my own materials I found many things for toddlers and babies, but not many things geared for specific ages and developmental levels. Thus, I was initially tailoring things to my own children. Age two was when I found it most difficult to identify activities that matched my children’s levels of ability. Why is this age so hard, you ask? In my experience, the options are limited because children are still putting things in their mouths and they are just starting to acquire language abilities. However I found my kids could do a fair amount more than I would have expected at this age. They could tackle materials targeted beyond their age group. I am sure if you look you will find the same. So here I’m offering a window into the work I do - a program geared for 2-year-olds. I hope you enjoy this unit as much as my clients did.
Join our astronauts at lift-off !
1) Toddler Rocket Launch: Take the small M&M containers (a tube shape) and then using a paper cone, add antacid and water and voila, a small bang! Just right for their first launch. This is a great time to introduce the term “chemical reaction”.
Now that our rocket is ready to travel, where are we going?
Link - Kids activities Antacid Rocket Experiment
2) Planet Walk: Astronauts will tiptoe, hop, and run while flying between planets. This is a great way to teach and reinforce the names of the planets, while working on gross motor skills.
To Print out planet images:
Link - Planet images
Astronauts ready for added difficulty:
Planet hopping stepping stones can be used, and are great for working on numbers
Link - Planet stepping stones on Amazon
While we are flying about the stars, we can’t forget to visit some constellations, and discover a few of our own.
3) Constellation Discovery: While orienting ourselves in space we took out our guidebook “Zoo In The Sky”. This award-winning book will give your astronauts the foundation needed to create their own constellations using star stickers. Don’t forget to have your astronauts name their constellations. I loved the names my little astronauts gave them!!! To this day, I have them hanging in our classroom. Stickers are a great way to help children develop resilience and fine motor skills. Don’t forget a great astronaut has to be challenged and struggle to plant their flag among the stars. Don’t do it for them. You can guide them with an example or verbal instructions. But keep your hands off their stars.
Now it’s time for them to write their name among the stars:
4) Moon Dust writing: Take baking soda and color it with food coloring until gray. Just add drops of food coloring and mix it in. You can use a bit of water to help mix if necessary. Then add glitter to make it more fun. You can pour it onto baking trays. Then have kids draw in it with their fingers. Focus on circles and lines. These are the first shapes they will need to master to begin writing.
If they get tired of this... you can have them play with the powder in cups and pour in baking soda to make eruptions. This is a great time to have them compare what happens when water (versus vinegar) is mixed with the baking soda. You can discuss that one causes a chemical reaction and the other does not.
Link - Learn play imagine moon dust activity
It is time to start investigating some planets:
5) Planet Exploration: The Astronauts must find and investigate items on planet “blanket”. Difficulties arise as a 2-3 blanket storm appears to be hiding the items. But it would not be exploration without some problem solving! Let the kids find what’s hidden between and under those blankets!
Mission Control has called to check in:
6) Mission Control (Simon says), Body Parts: Mission control says wiggle your toes, Mission control says clap your hands… When all body parts are checked, Blast-Off!!!
Wait!! Did we find a new life form?!:
7) Playdough Aliens: Have your astronauts discover their own aliens with Playdough and odds-and-ends from around the house and (of course) googly eyes. Open-ended play is the best way to help your children develop their creativity. Give them great materials and maybe a quick example, then walk away. It will also lead to kids who can never be bored, and who are able to play on their own. Plus, it’s not possible to have too much Playdough - it’s great for building fine motor skills.
Listen! Is that music I am hearing in space?
8) Space Dance Party: Click, and listen to this music inspired from space data: Link - The Guardian, Space Voyager Music. Even astronauts need to boogie. Add a little spice to your dance party with beach ball “planets”. See how long you can keep it up!!!
Even Astronauts need to eat. It’s time for a special astronaut snack:
9) Moon Snack: Take Oreos open them up and make them full or half moons. Create a bunch of them and then have astronauts match them. When they match them then they are ready to eat. I am sure after this snack they will be thirsty. This is a wonderful time to have your astronaut work on asking for a drink. Don’t forget aliens like to say “please” and “thank you” too!!! Astronauts won’t be prepared to meet other life forms if they can’t ask for food and drink politely. On another note, even new astronauts can benefit from being exposed to fractions. When exposed early with hands- on materials they will catch on faster than most earthlings.
Oh no! Our robot has gotten off track we need to chase it down!!
10) Robot Chase Game: Don’t forget our astronauts need to work and play with others. The classic chase game does just that.
Honing one's sensory skills is essential for an astronaut!
If you ever wondered why this is important, check out this excellent article:
Link - PBS, Child development and sensory play
11) Star matching sensory box: With this star matching sensory box, your astronaut will be cataloging stars in no time.
What Landry? Astronauts have laundry? Of course they do!
12) Sock Match: Have your astronauts match their socks next time you do the laundry. I am sure they have to do this on the space station. Practical life skills are just as important in space as in real life. Have your astronaut join in on as much household work as you can. You will thank yourself in the long run.
It's time to say goodnight to the moon:
13) Goodnight Moon Collection: Collect items that are in the pictures of the popular book “Goodnight Moon” from around the house. Place this in a pile on one side of the room. Point to a picture of one of these objects in the book. Ask your astronaut to name it. When astronaut names the item correctly, ask them to run across the room and retrieve the item. Do this until all the items are collected and book is finished.
Link - Goodnight Moon on Amazon
Now that the moon is going to sleep it's time to get ourselves ready for sleep, astronauts need their sleep too! Here are a bunch of books that my astronauts recommend.
14) Space Books:
Link - Bizzy-Bear-Rocket
Link - Lets-Explore-Moon
Link - Why-Does-Happen-Planets-Atmosphere
While reading books on space, ask your astronaut where certain objects are in the book. They should point at the picture. Also, have them do this with objects around the house. Pointing is an important skill for counting, and is one of the first steps in reading.
Finally our minds need to relax along with our bodies so we can start our journey among the starts tomorrow.
15) Mindful Stars: Take a transparent bottle fill it with water, glitter and stars. Turn it over and observe while calmly breathing. This is useful anytime during the day when emotions are running high. This has been a part of our nighttime routine for a long time.
I hope you will join us again on our next adventures at Mama Bear Consulting (mamabearconsulting.com)! We hope your night is filled with stars!!!
Found on Google from dreamstime.com