Thematic Unit: The Night Sky, Astronauts, and Outer Space

Outer Space Preschool Unit

Whether you’re looking for activities as a full-time teacher, a group of co-opting preschool parents, or a parent with curious kids and an afternoon to fill, you’re in the right place!  Find more Thematic Units here!

S P A C E!  This is a theme that could stretch over weeks or months!  Perhaps, start with what is most familiar — the night sky that children see from their own windows and back yards.  Then, become astronauts and journey further into space to find out what’s going on out in that “final frontier”.

In addition to various developmental objectives, this unit promotes preschool science knowledge in the categories of Earth & Space Science (environmental components, natural features, weather and seasons, components of the sky) as well as Physical Science (physical features and  properties, sound, light, water, states of matter, movement, etc.).

(*Links to Amazon for products and books are affiliate links.  Regardless, I only link to quality products I believe you’ll enjoy.)

Creative Activities

Find what kids gain from creative activities.

Toilet Paper Roll Rocket from No Time For Flash Cards

Toilet Paper Roll Rocket from No Time For Flash Cards

Kids can create all kinds of designs for these Toilet Paper Roll Rockets  from No Time for Flash Cards.  Use paints, stickers, tape, or crayons to do your decorating.

Use a set-up like this Solar System Craft featured on MemeTales, but instead of creating the entire solar system, have an open-ended activity at the art table where kids can create their own planet!

I love this Splatter Paint and Water Color Outer Space Picture Project from Pink and Green Mama!  Depending on your group and schedule, you may want to spread the steps out over a few days, or simply do white splatter paint on black paper for a fun night sky!

I like to use my art table for play dough play as well.  This post from Childhood Beckons has some awesome ideas for some space-themed play dough play!

Dramatic Play

Objectives for dramatic play.

Night Sky Nook from Fantastic Fun and Learning

Night Sky Nook from Fantastic Fun and Learning

Camp out under the Stars!  Create a Night Sky Nook like this one from Fantastic Fun and Learning.  Add pillows, blankets, books and stuffed animals!  (You can also make a similar setting using a cardboard box like this one from Play at Home Mom.)

Mission Control to Space Shuttle One.  Make a space ship by covering a table, tent, or tunnel with an inexpensive white shower curtain, decorated with permanent markers to look like a space ship.  Score some old stereos from the thrift shop and place them around the edges to give the kids knobs and dials to turn as their controls.  If you have a set of walky-talkies, throw a one in and set another at a table with maps, star charts, and an old keyboard to create Mission Control!

Block Area

Block play builds math concepts and spatial reasoning along with language and often, social skills.

Add astronaut figures (I found some at the party store.  The dollar store might be a good place to score some too!) along with  fabric or tissue paper, and some interesting rocks to your usual wooden  Unit Blocks.

Use PVC pipe fittings like the example here from Brick by Brick  and have your little astronauts pretend to work on making repairs in space.  Even more true to the astronaut experience:  have them work with gloves on!

Spread out and use the floor space in your block area for something like Melissa & Doug’s Solar System 48 pcs Floor Puzzle.

And then there’s this.  Flexible duct/hose from your local hardware store just screams “SPACE”, doesn’t it?  What would you use this for in your classroom?  I really would love to hear!

Sensory Play

Find out why sensory play is so important.

Outer Space Sensory Tub from One Perfect Day

Outer Space Sensory Tub from One Perfect Day

This Space Themed Sensory Tub from One Perfect Day uses rocks, pom poms, plastic planets and an awesome background (I never would have thought of a background!).

Use cloud dough and astronaut figures like this sensory bin from Stir the Wonder!  (She also has a link to a space-themed Pinterest board at the end that might be worth checking out!)

Black beans work for a great dark of night or outer space medium as well, as they do in this space sensory box from My Small Potatoes.

Some planets are freezing cold because they’re so far away from the sun.  Create cool planets by following this fun creative-science activity, Cool Ice Art from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas.

Of course, it seems logical to use moon sand for a sensory activity!  You can get great ideas for tools to add with it in this post from Crafts-N-Things for Children

Working Tables

This is where I put fine motor materials and cognitive games.  (Puzzles, unifix cubes, lacing cards, etc.)

Handmade Solar System Box from Playful Learning

Handmade Solar System Box from Playful Learning

Make a Handmade Solar System in a Box using this tutorial from Playful Learning.  The post also includes printable cards and ideas on how kids might use the set.

Kids will love this Handmade Outer Space Felt Board and Felt Build-a-Rocket Game from Pink and Green Mama!

There’s something about this colander sculpture from Tinker Lab that reminds me of space.  Maybe it’s the resemblance to an alien space helmet, or the connection to the work astronauts have to do on the space station.  Maybe it’s just because it’s awesome.  Add some star beads and planetary round beads to make it even more celestial!

Outdoor Play

Outdoor play encompasses a variety of objectives and exposes kids to natural materials and nature itself!

Take egg cartons and stones out to your sandbox along with toys to create a larger scale of this awesome Lunar Landscape Sensory Box from Imagination Tree!

Create constellations with stones and sidewalk chalk as featured in this Constellation Art post from Creekside Learning (and I love her idea for creating a book from the experiencing).

Go for a space walk by creating an obstacle course.  Use beams for balancing in low gravity, tunnels for crawling through the space station, and hula hoops for hopping over or into moon craters!  Add more obstacles to fit your supplies and the interests of your kids.

Invite families for a Star Gazing Party on a Friday night.  Invite an astronomer from a local college or an enthusiast from your neighborhood (even better — a parent!) to bring a telescope and help families take turns getting up close and personal with the night sky.  Lay out blankets and stare at the stars with your bare eyes!  If you’re a serious party planner, you can get ideas from these party posts at Super Mom Moments/Paging SuperMom: Invites & Decor, Activities & Favors, and Party Food.

Music and Movement

These activities combine language and literacy objectives like phonological awareness with physical objectives like gross motor skills.

Kids love dancing to this Laurie Berkner song, Rocket Ship Run Crouch down and jump on the blast off and then glide around the room on the slower parts.  If you dig her style (which I totally do) you can pick up this song on her album by the same name, Rocket Ship Run, from this Amazon Affiliate link.

Of course, what would this unit be without a little Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?  Remember the oldies are like Shakespeare for our little ones!

Snack Time!

Snack time not only fills hungry bellies, but is a great opportunity for building social skills and getting kids hands-on experience with snack prep!

Astronaut Pudding and Dehydrated Fruit.  This link from Feels like Home includes an awesome video about how astronauts eat in space (it’s long, so preview and choose which parts will be effective for your group), along with a recipe for pudding that kids can help make.  Use this for a hands-on snack time or split it between a large group activity and a snack experience!

I still vividly remember my childhood trip to Oregon’s science museum, OMSI (go there if you find yourself in Portland!), and my first taste of Astronaut ice cream!  Pick some up here:  American Outdoor Products Astronaut Ice Cream (Pack of 10)

Astronauts suck some of their food through pouches, so that it doesn’t float away!  Try some squeezable applesauce for the same experience.

You can also go simple, with some Jell-O jigglers or rice crispy treats shaped like stars.

Book Activities

Combine language and literacy with a learning activity for one powerful and memorable experience!  Read here for tips on how to make read-alouds more effective.  (Book titles linked to Amazon through an affiliate link.)

If You Decide To Go To The Moon by Faith McNulty and Stephen Kellogg with the Moon Craft from Fantastic Fun and Learning or Making Craters from Science Sparks.

Astronaut Handbookby Meghan McCarthy with the Night Sky Felt Play and Math Games from Fantastic Fun and Learning.

Roaring Rockets by Tony Mitton with Junk Model Space Rockets from Nurture Store.

How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers and then make this star jar from Kiwi Crate for kids to carry home stars of their own.



Don’t forget to add some great non-fiction books to your reading area as well!  DK books are always one of my first go-tos for this type of book.  It may not be your first choice for a straight-through, story time read, but your kids will love thumbing through them and having you read pages and captions that get their attention.  You can also use individual pages for great mini-lessons or to introduce an activity!
Smart Kids Space  :This one was made with preschoolers and early grades in mind, with amazing pictures and loads of facts!

First Space Encyclopedia (DK First Reference)  : This lists ages 6-12, but there’s plenty here for a preschooler to love!

Space: A Visual Encyclopedia Geared toward older children (7-12), but the pictures are great for capturing interest and starting conversations.  (Plus, it’s a great reference for YOU as the teacher!)  Produced by the team of DK and NASA, you know this is going to be a great resource!


Thematic Unit Ideas!

Find more Thematic Units here!



Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, Uncategorized, Unit Themes

10 Responses to Thematic Unit: The Night Sky, Astronauts, and Outer Space

  1. Amanda, what a wonderful group of resources! Thank you for putting this together. My preschooler is fascinated with space right now so we will be using some of these for sure. Thank you for including our constellation art with rocks and sidewalk chalk.

  2. Tina

    Love it! Last week I started working on themes to study at home with my kids and the night sky is first on our list. Thank you!

  3. Pingback: Thematic Units for the Preschool Classroom | Not Just CuteNot Just Cute

  4. This is a fantastic round up Amanda. Thanks so much for including our sensory tub.

  5. Pingback: Astronomy for Babies and Toddlers under 2 | Raising Yusuf

  6. It is not my first time to pay a visit this site, i am visiting this website dailly and take fastidious facts from here daily.

  7. Janell

    My preschool son’s park birthday, supposedly a fun and low-key event, is going to be rained out in two days. THANK YOU for all the wonderful ideas to help me plan a last minute rocket party :)

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