The scale of the solar system can be tough for kids to grasp. It’s huuuuuge! Help kids visualize the distance between planets by bringing the concept home with a simple scale model using toilet paper.
- Roll of toilet paper
- Scrap paper
- Pen, pencil, marker or crayons
The Set Up:
- Write the name of the planets or draw them on pieces of scrap paper. If you have time (and depending on your child’s age), have the kids look up images of the planets first, then draw them on paper.
- Roll out toilet paper squares according to the chart below. Note: I had the kids round numbers to whole ‘squares’ but you can be more accurate with your model.
- Place corresponding planets at the end of each line. Ask the kids which planets are the coldest? How about the warmest? Why?
Extend the Learning
Gross Motor Math
Now that kids can see the distance between planets, have them estimate how many hops, skips, or jumps it would take to make it to each one from the sun. Then have them hop, skip or jump across the floor to see if their estimation was correct.
Encourage older kids to go SciFi with a creative writing prompt:
Congratulations! You have been selected to lead an elite team of super smart and clever people. Your mission is to travel through space looking for intelligent life forms. Communicate your findings to Mission Control (aka your parents) and keep them informed of your journey. As you transmit the story of your adventure, be sure to include information about:
- your team
- your space craft
- a planet you visit
- what, if any, life forms you discover
- a challenge you encounter
- a solution to the challenge
Have the kids craft their story using traditional paragraph form, a “Captain’s Log” or through comic book cells.