Even if a road trip to a National Park is not on your radar this summer, you can make like Galileo and introduce your kiddos to backyard stargazing with these awesome space toys for kids—from a telescope to a constellation globe—even the most indoor loving kids will get psyched to get outside at night. (Any kiddo will agree that staying up past their bedtime, all in the name of learning about constellations and stargazing, is a real treat.)
Don’t fret if you’re worried that the night sky looks like your kitchen floor after a toddler eating Rice Krispies. That’s the whole point of stargazing. Searching for a constellation is as exciting for kids as it is for parents. We might not be traveling much on freeways, but no one will stop you from journeying to the Milky Way. And the thrill of finding the Big Dipper can be as delightful as pulling out a prize from a cereal box. And teachers will agree—stargazing definitely counts as part of your homeschooling lesson plan!
But I live in a big city with a sh*t load of light pollution and a teeny-tiny balcony (if that), you might say! No (dark) matter (ha). We found space toys for kids that will transform any bedroom into a galaxy far, far away. At the very best, these STEM toys will incite curiosity about space, at the very least, the soothing glow of the constellation projector makes a kick-ass nightlight.
Best Telescope for Outdoor Exploring
We all wish to escape sometimes (ahem, now?) and Nancy B’s Science Club MoonScope will take you and your kids out of this world. This telescope for kids is the ideal gateway toy to introduce kids to astronomy. Julie W. said, “This was the perfect starter telescope for her [6 year-old-daughter] since it is small, lightweight, and durable. It is easy to carry so she can tote it around wherever we go.” The stress-free telescope setup comes with two lenses and a pre-aligned glow-in-the-dark ring, aka “super eye,” that lets kids explore the mountain ranges and craters on the moon. (Mom tip: you might first let them play with the knobs during the day to avoid a zillion adjustment questions in the dark). Then, while you and hubby kick back on a blanket for some one-on-one stargazing, let them channel their inner selenographer, a scientist who studies moon surfaces (we learned something new today too), and record it all in the 22-page activity journal that comes with the telescope. That’s parent-free learning at its best!
Best Space Toy for Snuggling
Your kids’ stuffed animal collection will be out of this world thanks to this 4-inch Comet plush with a sparkly Mohawk. The uber-soft space toy is part of the celestial collection of our solar system—Saturn, Jupiter, and Neptune, to name a few. And of course, there is “Earthy,” a stuffed toy that real NASA astronauts took with them aboard the SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station. Back on earth, toss this shimmery planetary pal across the room as part of the DIY meteor shower game—it’s better than a pillow fight. Come bedtime, kids will love to snuggle up with this little guy as they dream of galaxies and constellations.
Best Space Toy for World Travelers
We know that anything that glows in the dark is a hit (cue glow sticks!). That’s why this light-up constellation globe is like a magnet for star-loving kids. The glowing map not only depicts constellations, but also highlights major stars. So your little Leo can get super psyched to know that the big star within its constellation, Regulus, is one of the brightest in the sky. And since it’s cord-free, kids can bring it outside as a cheat-sheet for finding the real deal during backyard stargazing. Even the littlest kids will love this globe and it’s spinning nightlight projector. One mom said, “My 14-month-old likes to press the buttons and watch the constellations light up and he goes to sleep watching the stars on the ceiling!” During the day, let this spinning globe be a reminder that we have plenty of places to go once the quarantine is over.
Best Stargazing Book for Kids
The beloved Curious George author, H. A. Rey, is showcasing his passion for astronomy with the connect-the-dots approach in the whimsical Find the Constellations book for school aged kids. The chapters are broken down by seasons, highlighting different constellations like Orion and Andromeda. The chapter on finding stars at dusk is perfect for kiddos who need to snooze earlier. While the book first published decades ago, this updated version is revised to include new scientific information and offers an online resource that lets young readers track the position of the planets into the year 2100. Like T. Peterson, you won’t regret this purchase: “The best constellation book for kids, fun and easy to read, but a fast way to learn the sky. I got my first copy when I was a teenager, used it when I was taking Astronomy at MIT, and now a copy for my youngest grandkids. I’ve bought dozens of copies of this book (and its big brother) for kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews, friends, and myself.”
Best Star Activity for A Rainy Day
Rainy day or not, a colorful puzzle is pretty much a guarantee that kids will be occupied for at least 30 minutes (insert praying hands emoji here.) Bonus points for puzzles that comes with a lesson—as this one does. Each planet is a cutout with its name on the back translated into English, Spanish and French. Fancy! “This is a great puzzle for a young solar system enthusiast,” says reviewer DebQ. “Love how it actually incorporates the planets’ shapes, which makes for interesting puzzle piece shapes.” And when the kids are ready to retire it, glue it together an hang on the wall as sleek artwork.
Best Star Book as Bedtime Story
It’s never too early to introduce your kids to the solar system and this sing-song rhyming cadence of 8 Little Planets is impossible not to love. We are not kidding you, little kids can’t get enough of this book—and we’re pretty sure you’ll finally learn the order of the planets soon after (no telescope required). Elizabeth G. writes: “It’s easily in our top 3 for reading at night. I love that it has accurate facts about the planets, the words and rhyming are great, and the pictures are colorful and fun. It’s been a hit with my 8 month old daughter and my 2 year old nephew.”
Best for Solar System Homeschooling
Put those blackout curtains to good use and set up a space station in your digs. The Discovery Kids Space Projector can transform any bedroom into a planetarium. This NASA-esque model is double sided. One side has a rotating dome that projects stars on the wall and ceiling. Saleha A. writes, “I originally purchased it for my 4-yr boy. And then I ended up loving it for myself. 🙂 In a completely dark room it works like magic! On the ‘stars’ mode, the whole room is filled with dreamy slowly rotating bluish stars.” (No one is going to judge you if you sneak in your kids bedroom for some celestial meditation mid-day.)
The other, stationary side, has a slide projector to showcase 32 different images like nebula, planets and galaxies—making this space toy a great learning tool for all ages. And since the orange stand rotates 360 degrees even the littlest, wriggliest hands won’t break it. One thing you won’t be saying is, “Houston, we have a problem.”
Best for Hands-On STEM Learning
As any mom who has dealt with an overflowing art drawer, you know that kids learn best by doing. This DIY STEM craft kit has projects for the entire week—from a solar system mobile to an easy-to assemble a daytime ‘stargazing’ kaleidoscope to decorative lace-through constellations. Making the paper rocket doesn’t require glue (Yay! Another couch is saved!) but it is fueled by baking soda and vinegar, making blast off, well a blast. Don’t be too surprised if your kiddos start talking about moon phases instead of Minecraft at dinner time. Hint: the moon project involves Oreos and milk. When your kid is done with these projects, their room might just look like the Air and Space Museum.
Best for Stargazing Babies and Toddlers
Ok, more likely than not, these blocks might start out as bb toys instead of actual space toys (it’s ok, the blocks are printed using non-toxic, child-safe inks)—and does that mean they will learn the planets by osmosis? We can hope. But really, these adorable blocks are high contrast and will keep your Baby Einstein mesmerized for hours. And since they are made from sustainable basswood, you can feel good about adding them to any nursery. Nine blocks, almost 2″ square, are colorful and textured and will be as fun for stacking as they are for learning as the child progresses from just touching them to really using them as an educational tool.