Moon Gazing with your Toddler: Science, Nature, and a touch of Folklore

Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.



When I was a little girl I wanted to be an astronaut and work for NASA.  My dad taught me to love science and the magic of the night sky.  He had a telescope and showed us the most amazing things.  The things I remember most – seeing the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and a close up of the Pleidies – were probably all when I was older than 1 or 2 but I know that gazing at the night sky was just always part of my life and I want Aellyn to start right away.

Stars and constellations might be difficult for a young toddler to pick out but our beautiful Moon is easy to see!  Here are some activities you can do during the warm summer months.  It is worth skipping bedtime trust me.

Name the Phases of the Moon

Toddlerhood is all about giving a label to everything they see.  Learning why and how the Moon changes shape will probably not be understandable for a few years yet but even young toddlers are adept at identifying shapes!  Here are the phases of the Moon and the names of the “shapes.”

crescent,   half,   gibbous,   full,   gibbous,   half,   crescent

Gibbous might be a bit advanced but most toddlers can tell the difference between a sliver, half, or whole.

Books About the Moon

One of my favorite things about star and moon gazing is how wonderfully it teaches folklore.  These books teach children about how our Moon is ever-changing.  At the same time children learn about different cultures and beliefs as well as values like compassion and friendship.

Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me How The Moon Regained Her Shape
Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me
by Eric Carle

Eric Carle is always a wonderful visual experience and this book is no exception.  Monica wants to play with the Moon – how will Papa get it for her?

This book shows the ever-changing shape of the moon so it pairs well with some night-sky gazing with your children.  Many of the pages fold out which is a treat.

How The Moon Regained Her Shape
by Janet Ruth Heller

This book is based on a Native American folk story and while it manages to effectively teach about the phases of the Moon it also teaches about self-esteem.

The Moon hides when she is bullied by the Sun but with the help of her friends regains her self-confidence to shine in the night sky. BONUS: this book includes a section on teaching the science of the Moon and activities for children.

Long Night Moon Kitten's First Full Moon
Long Night Moon
by Cynthia Rylant

The changing shape of the Moon is fun for kids to learn but so is the myriad names and stories for each month’s Full Moon. This book features beautiful nightscapes as it takes you throughout the year in Full Moons.  The text is wonderfully rhythmic and great for reading aloud.

I think this is a great book to read every month on the Full Moon.

Kitten’s First Full Moon
by Kevin Henkes

This book follows Kitten’s attempts to capture the Moon which she mistakes for a bowl of milk.

The pictures are all in a gray theme with the bright white Moon – perfect for evoking night.  The text is rhythmic and great for reading aloud.

Also check out Spanish version!

A Cloak for the Moon Moon Rope/Un lazo a la luna
A Cloak for the Moon
by Eric A. Kimmel

This traditional Jewish folktale takes us on a journey with Haskel the tailor to make a special cloak for the Moon.  In order to find a material that will grow and shrink with the changing Moon he travels from Israel to China to the whimsical Roof of the World.

The story focuses on Haskel’s commitment to keeping his promises and has beautiful paintings reflecting the Persian and Asian settings.

Moon Rope/Un lazo a la luna
by Lois Ehlert

Moon Rope is a Peruvian tale featuring Fox on his quest to reach the Moon.

The illustrations are cut-paper and vibrant in color which sets off the silver threads of the Moon and rope.

This book has English and Spanish in parallel (see “inside” view for an example) which is great for introducing kids to another language and for reading aloud.

The Woman in the Moon and Other Tales of Forgotten Heroines I Took the Moon for a Walk
The Woman in the Moon and Other Tales of Forgotten Heroines
by James Riordan

This story about the Moon comes in an excellent collection of folktales featuring strong female characters.

The title story is about a Chippewa (Ojibwe) maiden that falls in love with the Moon.

I Took the Moon for a Walk
by Carolyn Curtis

The highlight of this book is its lyrical prose that reads so well out loud.  Follow the night walk the boy takes with the Moon.  The final pages offer some facts about the Moon.

Moon Songs and Poems

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon,
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.

Go Moon Gazing

  • If you live in a city, see if you can visit a park or go camping away from the light pollution.  If you’ve lived your whole life in the city and never seen the country sky free from lights for miles prepare to faint with the wonder of it.  I grew up in the country in Ohio where it is just beautiful but when I was in college I was in in Arches National Park in Utah and got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and nearly tripped over myself when I saw the sky.  It was magnificient.  There is no way I could have picked out a constellation – there were that many stars!  Light pollution is a real ecological problem in my opinion.  Will our children’s children have any place on Earth where they can see the sky of our ancestors?  Here are a few examples:
  • If you want to show off the stars go on a night when the Moon is New where you’ll be able to see the stars more brightly.  If you can see the swath of stars cutting the sky that is the Milky Way.  I found this fascinating as a child – a candy bar in the sky! :)
  • If you want to see the moon start with a full (or nearly full moon).  Point it out to your child and give it its name.  You can do this then several times through the summer and they’ll get better and seeing that the moon changes.

Each Full Moon during they year has its own names which are a special treat.  Learn more about each Moon and how it got its name at the Farmers Almanac.  This Summer’s Name Moons (in Eastern US Time):

  • Jun. 18, 1:30 p.m. EDT — Full Strawberry Moon. Known to every Algonquin tribe. Europeans called it the Rose Moon.
  • Jul. 18, 3:59 a.m. EDT — Full Buck Moon, when the new antlers of buck deer push out from their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, thunderstorms being now most frequent. Sometimes also called the Full Hay Moon.
  • Aug. 16, 5:16 p.m. EDT — Full Sturgeon Moon, when this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water like Lake Champlain is most readily caught. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because the moon rises looking reddish through sultry haze, or the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon. There will be a Partial Lunar Eclipse that will be visible from Europe, Africa and the western two-thirds of Asia with this full moon. At its maximum 81 percent of the moon’s diameter will become immersed in the Earth’s dark umbral shadow.

Moon Crafts

I was hoping to actually make some felt Moon phase toys and show off all my pics.  Er…so, yeah.  Didn’t happen.  So allow me to link you some super fun crafts related to the Moon.

Enjoy!


30 comments on this post.
  1. Deb:

    I love it! We do a lot of moon gazing, even little ones can do it easily, and often go out to look at the stars. It's a huge advantage living in the country, being able to just walk outside and see things. We went for a picnic to try to spot some of the pleides meteors but didn't see any, but we did find some satellites. I'm going to have a look for some of those books, thanks for a fabulous post.

  2. Dionna @ Code Name::

    What a fun idea! Tom took Kieran out several times last summer to look through the telescope. We weren't sure if he understood, but he seemed to enjoy it. We've talked about the phases of the moon for awhile now – he knows full, crescent, etc. We don't get to see a lot of stars with the light here, but I've been bugging Tom to take us camping – I'm excited to show Kieran the wide open night sky! Great post, Paige :)

  3. Hobo_Mama:

    RT @babydust: My #CarNatPar post: Moon Gazing with your Toddler: Science, Nature, and a touch of Folklore – http://www.babydustdiaries.com/2010/06/m...

  4. Kayris:

    Thanks for sharing! IMO, it's very important to include science for kids, since so many schools cut back on it, or only require a little bit of it. For example, my high school only required 2 years of it. I took 4 years AND doubled up my senior year.

    One of my son's friends is very interested in space. At a field trip to the science center, as soon as the lights went down in the planetarium, he called, "Look Mom, Betelgeuse!" I was impressed.

    My dad used to work for NASA. I have been to the air and space museum more times than I can count.

  5. Holly:

    This is such a great post! My toddler has been obsessed with the moom since he was 8 or 9 months old. He always looks for it when he goes outside and still points it out to us. I will definitely be checking out some of the books you recommended! My sister bought my son the "Moon in My Room" toy for his first birthday so he can see the moon whenever he wants :)

  6. An Outside Girl | Good Goog:

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  7. Paige:

    That's cool. I was going to include a section on great Moon toys and Moon in My Room was on that list! I love that thing!

  8. Sprouting Peas — Science@home:

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  9. summer fun… « living peacefully with children:

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  11. Natural Parenting and Hiking With Young Children:

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  12. Camping, baby! /  GROW WITH GRACES:

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  14. Sybil:

    I am really glad that the carnival led me to your blog! This was a great post. I haven't ever read a post about teaching kids about the stars and moon before.

    I grew up waaaay out in the country and watching the stars at night was just what we did. My kids are growing up in the city and star watching isn't something I think we've ever done with them.

    Had to add that I found it very cool that the next full mom is on my daughter's 6th birthday! Might be a really fun day to introduce all of this to her.

    Anyways, off to add you to my feed reader!

  15. Deb Chitwood:

    What a wonderful post! You give so many great activities, and I love the idea of introducing toddlers to science and the night sky in a fun way. It’s so easy for children to develop a love of learning when they think it’s fun!

  16. Lauren @ Hobo Mama:

    Is it rude to say this is an awesomely geeky post if I am also a geek? I love it!

    I got a good chuckle when I got down to the section about how you ran out of time to do crafts. Well, I would guess so! This was a wonderfully comprehensive article, even without, but I appreciated the craft links (I need to try that marble painting method in the first one), and I just read up on Moon in My Room, which looks excellent. I'm going to look for the books you mentioned as well. I love the moon holding hands in that last one.

    Your fear that light pollution might take over permanently was rather sobering. I need to remember to do a trip somewhere dark this summer so we can enjoy the night sky.

    All in all, I'm just really glad you did this post, because it seriously hadn't occurred to me to point the moon out to my toddler. But you're right — he loves shapes, and he keeps learning new ones. I think crescent & half will be the next ones! Thanks!

  17. What We Do : Diary of a First Child:

    [...] Moon Gazing with your Toddler — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries is keeping her toddler up at night, but it’s for a good reason: to share the wonders of the night sky! (@babydust) [...]

  18. Paige:

    I want a telescope (or I'm hoping my dad will donate his to me..er..Aellyn. Hey dad, you reading this?).

  19. Paige:

    I am a proud geek! :)

    Yeah, the actual crafts never got done (yet). Aellyn is still a little young though because she eats all the art supplies. We are still enjoying water play mostly.

    When my husband first visited my hometown (we live in the city now) he couldn't believe how dark the roads were because we don't have street lights except for intersections and some of the larger roads. It is really DARK. I feel like some kids never see true dark. PLUS – only with true dark can you appreciate Moonlight! Have you ever taken a walk in the "dark" under the full moon? It is so beautiful! You always start out thinking you'll need a flashlight but then your eyes adjust and you see how bright everything is with this silver sheen. Just so beautiful! We have lots of owls here (does Seattle have owls? dumb question I know)? Full Moon nights are a great time to listen for owls.

  20. Paige:

    Your daughter's birthday is June 18th? It would be so cool to have a Strawberry desert and talk about the strawberry moon! Taht would be so cool!

  21. Summer Homeschool Fun at Camp Review | LivingMontessoriNow.com:

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  22. Melodie:

    What a fantastic post! I'm excited to try out a few of those books and I can't beleive I've lived this long and never knew the word "gibbous." And you're right about getting away to see the sky. I grew up in a pretty small town but one night we went up the mountain and I couldn't beleive the difference. I thought I'd been seeing everything down there but oh how wong I was!!!

  23. Julie from Simple Li:

    We so badly want to get a telescope for our kids to be able to see the moon and stars a little closer. I love sitting outside looking at the night sky. My favorite time is a crisp cold winter night.

  24. Let’s Take it Outside! « Navelgazing:

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  26. Paige:

    Good point Julie about winter. I framed this post in the summer because the weather is nicer but the night sky is actually better in winter because there is less humidity in the air which can distort the starlight.

  27. Garden Treats « Uncoiled:

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  28. Michelle @ The Parent Vortex:

    Great post Paige! I remember going camping for the first time when I met my husband and being astounded at the night sky. Truly incredible.

    Another good moon book for children is Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. It’s about a child who goes looking for owls on a winter night. It has a lovely story and beautiful illustrations.

  29. Luschka @ Diary of a First Child:

    This is a magnificent post! I love the stars so much too. I used to live in Namibia, Southern Africa and we’d drive in to the desert sometimes (to go camping and so on) and one of my favourite memories is a Christmas eve sitting on the beach with phosperous waves (green glowing insects in the waves) and a blanket of stars like most peopl can’t imagine… it was a life changing moment – because I realised how rare and how truly beautiful it was. I so look forward to passing all this on to my LO. Thank you for sharing such an informative post!

  30. crunchy granddma:

    This is a wonderful post. Love your memories and ideas for toddlers.

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