Disclaimer: Devoted Grandma is reader-supported. If you purchase anything through my site, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you). It helps keep the site alive, so thank you.
Summertime is here, and with it comes visits to or from the grandkids and – hopefully – lots of great times and memories shared! From chasing down the ice cream truck to chalking up the sidewalks to running through the sprinkler, baseball games, and riding bikes, there is so much to do with the grandkids this warm and wonderful time of the year!
While my grands and I enjoy all of the above, there is another activity we love to do during the summer: Nighttime stargazing and constellation hunts! Doing the two is not only a great way to make memories but can also double as a science and history lesson, making it an all-around win in the book of Devoted Grandma.
If you, too, could use a night under the stars with your grands, here are a few ways to get started, plus what you should look for during your stargazing adventure:
Introduction to identifying constellations
Identifying constellations is a great starting point for astronomy. A constellation is a group of stars that appear to form a particular pattern in the night sky, and as of this writing, there are 88 officially recognized constellations.
Some key constellations you might start with include:
- Ursa Major: Also known as the Great Bear or Big Dipper, it’s recognizable by a “dipper” or “plough” shape.
- Orion: Easily spotted by its “belt” of three stars in a straight line.
- Cassiopeia: It resembles a “W” or “M” shape, depending on its orientation.
- Cygnus: Known as the Swan, it features a cross shape with a bright star called Deneb at its tail.
There are also many star chart apps available for smartphones and tablets, which can help identify constellations, planets, and stars by simply pointing the device at the sky. (Trust me: They make our lives as stargazing grannies even easier!)
How to have a stargazing night with your grandkids
Stargazing with your grandkids can be a beautiful, educational, and bonding experience. Here are some tips:
- Choose the right time and place: Find a location that’s away from city lights for the best visibility. (Tip: A time around a new moon will also offer darker skies!) Clear, cool nights also tend to be better for stargazing.
- Tools: A telescope can greatly enhance the stargazing experience. However, even a pair of binoculars can reveal a lot. Star maps or smartphone apps can help identify celestial bodies.
- Dress accordingly: It can get cool at night, even in summer, so dress warmly, bring blankets, and maybe some hot chocolate for the kids.
- Plan ahead: Research what celestial bodies will be visible during your planned stargazing night. The grandkids might enjoy seeing planets, meteors (during a meteor shower), or the International Space Station pass by. (An excellent resource that I use to monitor the nighttime skies and any upcoming meteor showers is EarthSky.)
- Educational games: Create fun games that can help kids learn more about space. For instance, you can make a constellation scavenger hunt!
- Resources: Books about astronomy for kids or websites like NASA’s “Space Place” can be great resources to learn about space. Speaking of resources…
Star Finder!: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Night Sky
For an excellent guide to exploring the nighttime skies and when and where to see the stars, there is no better resource than this Smithsonian guide, which includes beautiful illustrations, easy-to-navigate maps, and even a glow-in-the-dark night-sky viewer!
Gskyer Telescope, 70mm Aperture 400mm AZ Mount Astronomical Refracting Telescope for Kids Beginners
If you want to take your stargazing to the next level, look no further than this highly-rated (and surprisingly affordable) telescope.
Discovery Kids #MINDBLOWN Solar Planetarium Kit
Make every night a stargazing night when you bring home this DIY planetarium kit! Not only will your grandkids have a little extra light when they sleep, but they will also learn about constellations and see how they change over time.
I hope that you and your grandkids enjoy this out-of-this-world activity as much as we have! I have always had an interest in astrology and find it even more fun when I get to share it with my grands. Enjoy!