Wanna trip your kids out? Wait till after dark one night, and take them to an isolated area outside of town, where the ambient light of the city has minimal impact, where streetlights are few and cell phone towers are nowhere in sight. Spread out a blanket on the grass or the roof of your car, and just lay there. In a few moments, the sky, and its billions upon billions of stars, will come into full view. Brighter and more vivid than you and your kids could ever imagine.
Lay there in silence and let them take it in, awestruck but the number of tiny lights they could never see from their reduced vantage point in the backyard. Or start up a discussion about the cosmos and our place in it. You – and they – will be amazed with what comes out.
The award-winning book A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky, written by Michael Driscoll and illustrated by Meredith Hamilton, might be the perfect pre-trip read. The “Child’s Introduction To” series of books comprise excellent guides to various subjects our kids are bound to be excited about, and Night Sky is no exception, as it covers almost everything about space that we know, and puts it in terms a child can understand.
Night Sky is packed of information about astronomy, and features full-color illustrations that paint pictures of what kids will be searching for as they look up at the vastness of space through telescopes or simply by stargazing out in the country. Cosmological definitions are provided, as well as the names of constellations and individual stars. Night Sky also includes information about the scientists who helped explore space, the history of how far we’ve come in said exploration, and detailed maps of the constellations. There’s also a star wheel, which will help your kids find specific stars and planets no matter what time of year it is.
Beyond the practical use of such a book, informing ourselves about the world outside of our own is a humbling experience. Kids can certainly take lessons away from talks about how tiny we are, just a little blue marble floating around in a giant sea of trillions of various other marbles. Are we here for a reason? Does our position in the universe make us more or less significant? Is there something beyond all that? And are there others like us staring right back at us?
We may never answer any of those questions to our satisfaction, but it sure is fun trying.
A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky can be purchased at Amazon