Teaching planets for kids may be a little more difficult than you thought because things may have changed since you were in school. The classification of what qualifies as a planet has changed, so now there are eight official planets in our solar system as opposed to the nine you may have been taught when growing up.
Our Solar System
Before you teach your kids about the planets of our solar system, be sure you have the fundamental knowledge necessary to accurately teach the basics. Here is what you need to know:
There are eight planets in our solar system:
- Mercury: This planet is the closest planet to the sun. It is very hot and has plenty of craters on the surface.
- Venus: This planet is the second closest planet to the sun. It can be seen in the nighttime sky without a telescope and is similar in size to Earth.
- Earth: Our planet is the third closest to the sun. Over 70% of the Earth's surface is covered with water, and we have one moon.
- Mars: This planet is the fourth closest planet to the sun. NASA has studied this planet with remote controlled spacecraft, and some scientists believe there may be (or may have been) some form of life on Mars.
- Jupiter: This planet is the fifth closest planet to the sun. It is the largest planet in the solar system and has four moons named Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
- Saturn: This planet is the sixth closest planet to the sun. This planet has distinctive rings around it and is the second largest planet in the solar system.
- Uranus: This planet is the seventh closest planet to the sun. This planet has rings, but they aren't as easily visible as Saturn's rings.
- Neptune: This planet is the eighth closest planet to the sun. During certain periods in time, this planet is further from the sun than Pluto is.
The sun is a star, not a planet. Pluto no longer qualifies as a planet within our solar system, but is instead considered a dwarf planet by scientists. When teaching planets for kids, be sure to clarify that both the sun and Pluto are not considered planets.
Beyond the Solar System
Our solar system is not the only system in the universe that has planets. A wide variety of planets exist throughout the universe, although these planets have not been explored or studied nearly as much as the planets within our own solar system. Whether these planets are hosts to living organisms remains a constant debate among scientists and laymen alike.
Learning Tools for Planets for Kids
Depending on the age of your kids, there are a wide variety of methods to teach planets for kids.
- Scientific Observation: If you reside near an observatory, take your kids to have a look at the various photos and artistic renderings of planets available. Be sure to take a peek in the powerful telescope to get a vivid look at the planets. Universities and colleges may offer similar programs.
- Observation at Home: Buy a telescope and take a look into the night's sky. The view will not be as vivid as it would through a more powerful telescope, but it is far superior to the view using the naked eye.
- Artistic Observation: If your kids respond well to artistic projects, help them construct a solar system using various artistic mediums. Some kids may enjoy drawing or painting planets, while other kids may actually enjoy dressing as planets and putting together a dramatic scene involving the planets within the solar system.
- Books and Videos: There are many different age-appropriate books and films available to help kids learn more about planets. Books such as Discover Planets by Cynthia Nicolson or DVDs such as Solar System for Kids can help kids get interested in learning more about this fascinating topic.