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Paint the Stars

Beholding the starry night sky is awe-inspiring and stokes the imagination for kids and adults alike. The night sky has also inspired storytelling throughout human history. Across time and cultures, people have seen pictures in the stars and told stories about the meaning of the constellations. In this activity we share some resources to inspire your family to learn more about your night sky. Then, kids turn a piece of fabric into a night sky of their own to tell their own starry stories. Here’s how:

The Guide

Learn about the night sky: Click here for a great list of ways to help kids discover the night sky.

Gather your materials: Gather a dark sheet or towel to become the background for your night sky. Then, gather materials you can use to add elements (e.g. stars, planets, meteors, etc.) to your night sky. This could include light colored chalk, shaving cream or even flour or cornstarch plus water.

Invite kids to play and create their own night sky: Head outside and lay out your materials. Talk a bit about the night sky and whatever you know or have learned about it. Then, wonder, How could we create our own night sky? Step back and welcome your child to explore the materials.

If it feels supportive, model a few ways to use the materials yourself. Dip the chalk in water and dab it onto the fabric to make dots. Use a stick or a rock to crush up the chalk into a powder. Then, mix in a bit of water to create your own chalk paint. Kids can dip their fingers into the paint and dab it onto the fabric. Or, if you have a paintbrush handy, invite kids to dab, flick or splatter the paint with their brush.

Let kids play and create: Make sure kids have space and time to use the materials to create and add to the night sky. Continue to play alongside or just sit back and let it all unfold.

[Extension] Look for constellations: Once kids have added “stars” to their night sky, take a moment to step back and marvel at their creation. What would happen if they connected some of the dots? Can they create one of the constellations? A brand-new constellation? What stories can they tell about the pictures they see in their night sky?

[Enjoy!] Play under the stars: Once dry, turn the night sky into a prop to spark imaginative space play. Drape the fabric over couch cushions, outdoor furniture or a tree branch and invite kids to pretend to camp out and sleep under the stars. Offer flashlights and invite kids to make their stars shine. Enjoy some starry parachute play by inviting kids and/or adults to each take a corner of the sheet and coordinate moving it up and down together. Kids can scurry inside the sheet on its way down so they can experience the sensation of being enveloped by stars.

Why is this activity great for kids?

Taking time to slow down and notice the night sky not only connects us to the natural world, it exposes the world's immense beauty and sparks joy and curiosity. This kind of open-ended chance to transform chalk and cloth into a sky also supports kids in using multiple senses and thinking creatively.

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