This weekend we were very excited to be able to watch the moment when two astronauts blasted off from Earth on a SpaceX ship and headed to the International Space Station! We watched as they prepped their gear and walked into the rocket ship. And we loved seeing that one of the astronauts brought along a little dinosaur with him! There is something very magical and captivating about the idea of going to outer space and it’s not surprising that our curious toddlers are drawn to the topic. Excitement about outer space has really exploded in our home, and if your little one is interested in outer space there are a lot of really fun and engaging art projects that you can work on together. Learning at this age is about the experience, the textures, the creative storytelling that happens as you work together. Don’t worry about the actual science and facts right now, it’s far more interesting to hear what your toddler thinks and why!
As we work together, I always ask my daughter a lot of questions. These questions guide her to think a little deeper, but do not convey my opinion. They are meant to inspire more reasoning and storytelling without any judgment or bias on my part.
T: So, the astronaut goes to Jupiter and he falls and falls and falls.
Me: How does he feel as he falls? What was he wearing? Is he by himself?
Project 1: Soda bottle rocket ship
- Recycled plastic soda bottle
- Acrylic paint
- Star stickers
- Construction paper- red, orange, yellow
- Tacky glue
Make sure you peel off the label from the plastic bottle before you begin. Have your child decide what color rocket ship they would like and get that color paint ready to go. Paint the entire outside of the plastic bottle and allow it to dry.
Once the bottle is dry, you can have your child put stickers on to decorate the rocket ship. If you’d like, you can use red, orange and yellow construction paper to cut out flames and add them to the bottom of the rocket ship with glue.
When everything is dry - you’re ready to blast off!
Project 2: Splatter paint galaxy
- Black canvas (you can paint a white canvas black, acrylic paint is best)
- Neon paint colors, silver, gold, and white (IKEA mala paint is amazing)
- A garbage bag or washable mat to place under the canvas and reduce mess
Get your black canvas prepared and set up a workspace (we opted to go outside on the sidewalk). I recommend putting a garbage bag or wipeable mat underneath to reduce the mess.
Dip your paintbrush into the white paint first and allow the paint to dribble onto the canvas, or you can use some force and flick the paint down Jackson Pollock style. Continue to add the other colors in the same way until you’re happy with your galaxy. For added sparkle, you can sprinkle a little glitter too!
Project 3: Earth Squish painting
- Blue, green and gold or brown paint
- A recycled plastic lid (large yogurt container size)
- OR you could use a muffin tin and make many planets at once
- White paper or canvas
First, you will squirt a little bit of blue, green and gold or brown paint onto the plastic lid or upside-down muffin tray. If you’re using the muffin tray you may want to use red and yellow as well to make a variety of different planets. Turn the lid or tray over onto your prepared white paper or canvas. Squish it down and you can even turn it a little bit to swirl and mix the colors. Lift up the lid or tray and – voila! – your Earth or planets will appear.
Rachel McMinn is an early childhood educator at Buckle My School Preschool in Tribeca, who has taught the young 2-year-olds for almost ten years. She holds a Masters in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College and a Writing degree from Pratt Institute. She lives in Brooklyn with her infant daughter, post-production & screenwriting husband, and two attention-seeking cats.
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