All about space! Lesson plans and more

Okay, astronomy is a big word for little learners, (and even for some teachers) true, but there are still ways that even children ages 3 to 6 can start picking up on larger academic subjects for later with vocabulary building, hands-on learning and pictures.

Children at this age are living developmentally in what Jean Piaget, the famous psychologist, called - the Pre-Operational Stage. Meaning? Between the ages of 2 to 4 years of age, children cannot yet manipulate and transform information in a logical way, however, they can now think in images and symbols. Symbolic play is a big part of a child's life at this time and through it, teachers can begin to introduce later higher concepts by exposing them with those images and symbols associated with things to come.

Children ages 4 to 7, Piaget believed, start to use a primitive form of reasoning by being introduced to things that they are curious about. Children at this age ask many questions that they may not be able to really comprehend the scope of but that by being exposed to those things in a way appropriate to their development will be truly exciting for them.

Who knows a child who isn't fascinated by the 'idea' of space, the planets, the stars - in what way they understand these things of course is not as we do. What is relevant is providing hands on, visually appealing projects and materials for them to develop while they absorb the terminology and imagery of those things.

Maria Montessori believed that children went through what she coined as 'The Absorbent Mind' a reference to the mind's ability from birth to acquire knowledge and information about the world that surrounds it without any conscious effort like with the natural and effortless acquisition of language.

Around the age of 3, a child moves from this unconscious absorbent mind to the state of conscious absorbent mind when the child begins to direct and focus the attention on experience once gained from the unconscious period.

As such from ages 3-6, the fundamental task of the child during this period of absorption is to build on what was previously unconsciously attained and so it goes on and on as the child builds his or herself by work and through play, from one stage to the next. This stage is about allowing a child the freedom to move purposefully, to concentrate and to choose his own direction. That being said, the role of the teacher is equally imperative for guiding and organizing that environment for the child to explore within limits.

Purchase age-appropriate materials, activities and ideas to share with the children in your classrooms. Find those materials here with units developed about space, planets, stars and about Earth. Enhance a child's curiosity in all things cosmic with art projects, games, songs, group activities and more featuring what will later become a base for learning astronomy with helpful vocabulary and images that are sure to stick even if little learners may never be able to say how!