The choices that parents make when buying toys for their kids can greatly impact their view of the world, and knowledge of the sky above.
My grandmother gave me a teddy bear for Christmas when I was four or five, but apparently I cried. I wanted books instead. Luckily I was showered with books from that time on, and I spent every spare minute reading.
But they were initially girl books – Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, What Katy Did.
When we were old enough to go to the library, I then chose boys’ adventure books – The Three Investigators and Hardy Boys. Cool stuff where they would use lemon juice as secret ink, and logic to solve problems.
But they didn’t really teach me about space, navigation or how the stars and planets change positions throughout the year.
So now moving to the country after a lifetime of city living, I don’t quite have the awareness of sun, moon, tides and winds that my partner does. (Although he’s possibly an extreme version – as an engineer, sailor and avid Spacex fan, he’s already conjecturing on the signal strength of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet as it passes over our tiny village).
I can always find north, the Southern Cross, Venus, the Saucepan – but that’s about it.
Hanging out with someone who can calculate which group of trees the sun will rise and set over in coming months is awesome. Understanding the impact of the moon upon tides.
Knowing the different parts of a rocket.
Knowing more stars than I do.
Your kids will learn to enjoy knowledge from their interactions with you – so take them camping and point out the stars. Frequently.
If you’re near the coast, explain why we get more afternoon sea breezes in summer – as the sun heats the land the hot air rises and cooler sea breezes rush in.
Introduce them to educational computer games about space – my kids loved the Magic School Bus programs when they were young. Then you can reinforce those messages while playing with your kids using some of the following cool space toys.
Solar System Model
It’s a hard choice between a desktop solar system and a mobile solar system hanging from the ceiling. A desktop model takes up room – but it’s easier to control, so you can adjust it to show the current planet alignments, and how they move at different rates. So I favour desktop solar system models.
Space Jigsaw Puzzle
Jigsaws are great for rainy days and this is an excellent way to get kids interested in space from the ages of 3 and up. There’s a simple 205-piece jigsaw puzzle and an accompanying book to read. Learn what Saturn’s rings are made of, or how many moons Jupiter has.
Glow in the dark stars
Every kid should have glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. I bought them for my boys (although I was more excited than they were). Advanced parents will arrange them into actual constellations….
Everybody knows what happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda (or coke and mentos). Get it out of their system early with a planned rocket test, for ages 5 and up.
My boys never had enough cars and trucks, especially motorised ones.
Thank goodness for solar power – you’ll never run out of batteries with this one! Seriously, one of my friends at school actually went to NASA to work on the Mars Rover project. A good science background is a beautiful thing.
If you’re a board-gaming family with an interest in coding, start with Sassi’s Learn and play with coding – space mission. My family wasn’t into board games growing up, so it’s been an eye-opener hanging out with others who do. Any get together usually ends up with someone whipping out a board game. If I could go back in time and change things, I’d make more time for board games… although reading really is fun.
But my favourite toys of all would have to be solar powered learning kits like Johnco 6-in-1 Solar Kit. Seriously. An airboat, windmill, puppy, car, plane, revolving plane. Why didn’t they have this when I was a kid?
I’ve been playing with solar lights and solar fountains in my garden this month, and we’re planning a decent set of solar panels as we build a house.
Solar power rules. I can’t imagine any kid that wouldn’t want this for Christmas.