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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tot Play Tuesday: Solar System Exploration!

This was probably my favorite Tot School theme! We did this space/solar system theme for a couple of weeks back in June. We did a lot of sensory play and pretend play and we worked on learning the names of the planets (plus Pluto!), and a bit about our sun and moon, other stars, comets, and asteroids. I quizzed him today out of curiosity and he can still pick out each planet/dwarf planet (Hi Pluto) correctly when I say the names using his little planet models in the picture above. I was impressed! 

We only have one kids' book about space, and now the literacy teacher in me is thinking Why didn't I get more books?! But this one covers the basics and has pretty pictures.

We also watched this little clip from an old Blue's Clues episode (remember Blue's Clues?? It was awesome!) with the song about the planets in our solar system. 

Here are the lyrics (*with my own edit to the last line about Pluto):

Well the sun's a hot star
And Mercury's hot too.
Venus is the brightest planet,
And Earth's home to me and you.
Mars is the red one,
And Jupiter's the most wide.
Saturn's got those icy rings
and Uranus spins on it's side.
Neptune's really windy.
And Pluto's really small!
*In fact, Pluto's a dwarf planet - 
It's not a real planet at all! 

The song really helped him learn the names of the planets. 

James also showed Calvin some videos of space shuttle launches and different rocket launches. Calvin had fun counting down with each launch. 

Here are some other ways we played around with our space theme and explored our solar system!

Solar System Sensory Bins

For this space sensory bin I ordered these small 3-D Planets and glow-in-the-dark stars on Amazon and found black lentils at Whole Foods. I love love love this sensory bin! I like the smooth feel of the lentils and they're perfect for this solar system scene. And the planets and stars all glow in the dark! 

I also had this crazy idea to make an edible space sensory bin... don't ask me why. I can't really remember. Maybe it was the cheddar rockets from Trader Joe's that gave me the idea. Or the solar system cupcakes I made for Calvin's first birthday. Whatever my inspiration was, the result was a little weird, but kind of pretty and it smelled like blueberries.

The blue goo is Duff Blue Suede Cake Mix, which I bought at Target. See, I thought the cake mix would look like blue powder. Silly me. I had to wet it to make the color show. Which is why it's all lumpy and sticky and weird. But it sure smelled nice! Like blueberry cake!

I still had those little white pearl candies left from Calvin's 1st birthday cupcakes, so those were the stars. For the planets, I used Fruit Loops Bloopers cereal, and some small fruits like cherries and blueberries. I couldn't figure out what to use for rings around Saturn, so I wrapped a strip of string cheese around a cherry... ew. I happened to have some green rock candy sprinkles so those were perfect for the asteroid belt, and we also happened to have Saturn peaches at the time so I used one for the sun. Then Calvin played around with making the little cheddar rocket crackers blast off from Earth and fly around to the different planets. He also enjoyed snacking on cheddar rockets and tasting the sugary cereal bits, and I even let him taste the cake mix, which was a big mistake because then all he wanted to do was eat it!! 

Space Bed

To turn Calvin's bed into a "space bed," I hung a dark blue sheet over his bed and used a flashlight and a colander to make stars. It was Calvin's idea to use his light-up clock as the sun. He and Henry had fun playing in there with their rocket ship and astronaut toys, and Calvin also wanted Mickey and Donald to go into space with them. 

Space Play Dough

I gave Calvin some blue play dough and a bunch of sparkly stuff that in my imagination could be planets and stars and comets and moons, and I let him at it. 

Sparkly Space Art

Glitter glue + construction paper + big circle sequins = one of the prettiest art projects Calvin and I have ever made! I'm still obsessed with this sparkly space-inspired art. We just swirled the glitter glue around, stuck the sequins on, and Voila! Masterpiece. Couldn't be easier or prettier!

We did this Tot School theme around the time we went camping at Fremont Peak State Park where we got to visit the observatory and see some gorgeous starry views of the night sky. 

I always try to tie our Tot School themes in with real life experiences one way or another, whether it's a trip to the zoo or the Academy of Sciences, or in this case a camping trip with some stargazing. 

And now I want to do space week all over again! Let me go get the glitter glue! 
Note to self: Get more books on space!

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