Last Summer on our holiday in France, we were staying in one of our holiday homes, Peche, with Grandpa Tim and Granny Sue next door in Poire. My two boys in an effort to avoid going to bed realised if they kept asking questions to Grandpa they could buy themselves some more time.
It was this game that started the "what's that?" question of the numerous starry names and patterns overhead. Being in the Navy, Grandpa's knowledge of constellations, (apparently necessary when navigating ships at night) was pretty good. We discovered the Big Dipper, Milky Way, Polaris, Saturn and much more.
Did you know you can see a galaxy 2½ million light-years away with your unaided eyes and craters on the Moon with binoculars?
This stargazing of the night skies was a complete fascination, especially on such a clear hot summers evening in France. It got me thinking of all the ways to help children in their discovery and knowledge of the skies above.
The first step is simply to get them to look up and ask, "What's that?". If they begin gazing at the stars they'll be taking the first step towards cosmic exploration.
Get some books
Comb the astronomy shelf for books in your local library. You'll find books with the basic knowledge you need to know, and guidebooks to what you can see out there in the wide universe. Read about those stars and constellations and about how the stars change through the night and the seasons. We found this great book on Amazon that was the perfect first book for our four-year-old.
Start stargazing with binoculars
Even lightweight binoculars will reveal hundreds of cosmic wonders, from lunar craters and double stars to galaxies millions of light-years away. These children's ones are compact enough to pack in a case, won't get lost when kept around their neck and did we mention they have night vision?
Art and Craft
We always pack an activity book or two when we travel to France. At the moment the boys love the scratch and sketch ones. This one on constellations is great fun. Creating rockets with any rubbish like cereal boxes, yoghurt pots and the like is also always a winner!