The Joy of Stargazing with Children

Skip to content
Hayley Bisofsky Pope
Cornwall dweller, lifestyle blogger and founder of The Little Naturalists Club
14 August 2023

Observing the night sky is a wonderful activity to do with children and fosters a love of scientific curiosity; while we’re in the warmer months of the year, take advantage of the more comfortable evenings where you're able to spend longer periods of time outdoors, studying the defining features of space. It doesn’t matter what age your children might be, from tots to young adults, moments spent together under the stars never ceases to inspire wonder about the natural world and inquisitiveness surrounding the sheer vastness of space.

Where to Begin

To make the most of your stargazing voyage, on clear nights it’s best to head to a spot that provides you with as much of an unobstructed view of the sky as possible. Ideally this should be a site with minimal light pollution, far away from tall buildings, trees and other objects that might punctuate the skyline. An excellent place to go for this is Bodmin Moor. In July 2017, Bodmin Moor was designated an International Dark Sky Landscape, confirming its long held reputation as one of Cornwall’s top attractions and simultaneously making it the first International Dark Sky location that sits within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These features make it an exceptional spot to bundle up the family and whisk them off to gaze up at the night sky, hot cocoa in a flask, of course! But, if you’d rather stay at home or have little ones that need to be in close proximity to their bed late at night, you would be surprised what you can spot from your bedroom window or sat on a blanket out in your garden. In its most simplest form, you don’t need any equipment to experience the awe of the night sky and by simply turning your back to streetlights and putting your phone away for just 15 minutes, your eyes will adjust to the darkness. Your eyes alone will pick out the moon, satellites, meteors, shooting stars and possibly even some UFO’s… However, if you’d like to up your game a little, you might be surprised at how much a simple pair of binoculars can enhance your experience. Children’s binoculars for smaller hands are easy to purchase, but they might find it easier without any depending on their age. For the more discerning individuals that are eager for further details, investing in an amateur telescope is highly recommended.

Moon Mapping

We have included some downloadable moon phase identification cards and a field guide at the bottom of this page to help you and your children follow the moons orbit of earth throughout the months. Our top tip for moon mapping is to research when the full moon will be, then in the week leading up to this date, spend some time outside and start exploring the moons various craters and plains. Binoculars come in really handy with this activity, as they offer far greater detail!

Meteor Showers

In fundamental terms, meteor showers are caused by clouds of debris left in the wake of comets, which Earth passes through on its path around the sun. These tiny grains of dust and rock enter the atmosphere at such high speeds that the friction between them and the air makes them burn up, producing a visible flash that moves across the sky. You don’t need any high tech equipment to spot meteor showers, simply let your eyes adjust and look up, meteors will shoot across the sky in all directions, appearing and disappearing within seconds, moving rapidly across the sky. If you’re lucky, you might even see some fireballs; big and brilliant meteors that appear as bright as Venus. To ensure an outstanding view, check weather forecasts for cloud coverage and try looking on any clear night during that week and in the weeks leading up to the peak – it’s generally advisable to look before the peak, rather than after. On any given night, the best time to look is just after midnight, wherever you are in the world. Make sure you keep an eye and an ear out for mention of any possible meteor showers and when they’re likely to occur so you don’t miss out!

Satellite Spotting

The International Space Station is the third brightest object in the sky and easy to spot if you know when to look up. Visible to the naked eye, it looks like a fast-moving plane only much higher and travelling thousands of miles an hour faster! If you and your little ones are eager to spot the Space Station during a flyover (which we’d highly recommend!), head to NASA’s spot the station website to see a list of all the possible sightings from your location over the next fortnight. If you’re based in Cornwall, use Truro as your location – this is the only option for Cornwall but the information they provide works for all locations in the county. It will provide a breakdown on what date it might be visible, the time, and even how long for. What’s more, you can set up email alerts on when the Space Station might be visible to make this a regular family activity.

Stargazing Benefits

The night sky is full of stories, adventures, and curiosities. Not only is gazing into the sky one of many ways to encourage your child’s natural love of learning, it’s also a positive step toward raising thoughtful, introspective, universe-conscious people. So whether it’s picking out constellations, learning the planets of the solar system, or simply studying the surface of moon, the benefits of stargazing with children are many. Now all that’s left to do is wait for twilight to fade to black, turn your focus to the skies and watch in awe as a sparkling display of the cosmos appears before your eyes. Don’t forget the downloadable activity sheets below, and happy stargazing!

Field Guide to the Night Sky

Learn all about star constellations, the surface of the moon, and other objects in space with our handy field guide.

Download PDF

Moon Phase ID Cards

This document follows the phases of the moon for you to identify and follow.

Download PDF