In case you haven’t heard, but you probably have, there will be a total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. They’re fairly rare to happen over the same city, but they do happen regularly in different parts of the world every few years.
This year, it will be tracking right across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. Whether you’re planning on packing your bags and heading to a festival or the closest nearby town with a total eclipse, it’s a great experience for kids to learn about astronomy as a learning theme and make an incredible memory!
Comprehensive activity guide to celebrate the solar eclipse with kids
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It’s important to first note that even with a total solar eclipse, it’s unsafe to look at the sun. The rays still shine around the moon and because it doesn’t last long, kids may not look away when they should. It’s important to get some solar glasses and not just regular sunglasses.
Where did it go? Solar Eclipse Learning Activities for kids
Simulate the Solar Eclipse
You can place a light bulb or flashlight on a table and dangle a ball in front of it showing the shadow on the wall (or look at it through a piece of paper to also teach your kids to not look at the sun during an eclipse)
Make a paper model of the Earth, Moon, and Sun orbiting to demonstrate the eclipse
Use a brad to clip a moon and its arm to the earth and the earth and its arm to the sun. Show how the Earth rotates around the sun and the moon around the earth and as they do, the moon eventually passes in front of the sun.
Get the free download here: Solar Eclipse Paper Simulation
Discuss what happens during an eclipse other than the sun going dark
This includes a drop in temperature, change in wind, etc.. Have a discussion about what happens and why and try to simulate it (Refer the the lightbulb idea. When a ball passes in front of the hot bulb, does it get cooler? Read more about how solar eclipses have an effect on wind.
How fast does the eclipse happen?
For older kids, calculate how fast you would have to travel to hit every city at the time of the eclipse.
A fun game of “Sun, Sun, Moon” for groups of younger kids.
Play a variation of “Duck, Duck, Goose” and instead make it “Sun, Sun, Moon” where the moon has to chase the sun and when they tag announce “Total Eclipse!”
Children’s books about the eclipse
Our personal favorite is “Someone is Eating the Sun” and is a cute book about how the animals see and experience the moon moving in front of the the sun’s rays. It even talks about how the animals can see it, but it’s not safe for us to stare at the sun, even in an eclipse.
We also learned about both lunar and solar eclipses in our Kindergarten learning objectives from the Moon Book. It is one of our favorite early childhood books about astronomy in general and of course it’s about everything Moon-related.
Other books to learn about solar eclipses:
- The Big Eclipse
- Eclipse!: The What, Where, When, Why, and How Guide to Watching Solar and Lunar Eclipses
- When the Sun Goes Dark
Get a solar eclipse shirt to commemorate the occasion
I personally designed this solar eclipse shirt as a fun and cute way to celebrate the total solar eclipse in the United States on August 21, 2017.
Snacks for the day of the total solar eclipse
Make pancakes! After putting batter in a squeezable container, put a small circle on your griddle. Then after the bubbles pop, squirt more batter on it from the center and allow it to slowly drip over the sides. Once the bubbles pop again, flip. You should have a darker center with the “sun ray” halo.
Make some fruit snacks with grapes and bananas!
For a tasty treat later in the day, you can make brownies to be the moon rock and peaches as a tasty sunshine ring around the moon.
More educational resources