August 21, 2017. This is going to be memorable day in history because the United States will celebrate “The Great American Eclipse.” Right now there are hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the state of Oregon to experience this once in a lifetime event. Young children (those 8 years and younger) may not really grasp the magnitude of this rarity. They see the stores filled with shoppers hoarding groceries, they see the kiosks of paper eclipse glasses for sale, and they may hear the adult chatter of excitement to watch the “totality” of for 2 minutes. How do we as parents translate this astronomical event to something much more meaningful for our children? Below are some ideas on how to explain this phenomenon to young children so that everyone can enjoy the science behind what makes up a solar eclipse.
- Act out a solar eclipse with your children. This can be done using other members of the family or using items found around the house. Try it with different sized balls. Label one the sun, the moon, and earth. If you have your child sit stationary, you can move the objects (“sun and moon”). Ask them, “Can you still see the sun? How about now? How about now? Is the moon completely blocking it yet?” etc. You can make this even more lifelike with using a flashlight to represent the sun.
- Make sure that everyone has appropriate eye protection. Talk to your child about the importance of never looking directly into the sun without the right kind of eyewear. Be clear about the kind of damage it can do one’s vision. Pull out different types of eyewear wear to make comparisons. You can compare sunglasses, work goggles, swim goggles, 3D glasses, etc. Viewing the eclipse may not be suitable for children who have a hard time keeping eyewear on (e.g., infants, squirmy toddlers). As parents use your best judgement to decide if your child is responsible enough to use the eyewear appropriately.
- Make a cereal box eclipse viewer. Click here for instructions from NASA for this fun activity to do with your child before the big day.
- Have conversations where you introduce vocabulary like eclipse, totality, solar, lunar, and corona. Have children make predictions of what the eclipse will look like once totality is reached. Use black construction paper and chalk to draw what they think they will see. They can compare their drawings to coronas from eclipses in the past.
For more ideas on how to enjoy the 2017 Great American Eclipse, click on NASA’s website. You’ll find lots of activities and events leading up to August 21st. Happy eclipse viewing!
The Parenting Hub would love to hear stories of how you celebrated The Great American Eclipse. Please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org