If you asked my daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up for the first few years of her life, she would have said she wanted to “sew the material,” which was her way of saying she wanted to make clothes and be a crafter like her mom.
Around the age of 4, that began to change. I don’t remember exactly what happened that got her interested in space, but it’s an obsession that started strong and continued to build as we bought her lots of books about space and, eventually, a small telescope.
Now if you ask her she’ll say she wants to be an astronomer during the day and a mom at night.
That sounds good to us, so we’re trying to do all we can to encourage her love of space, and these ideas might help anyone trying to encourage a geeky passion in their kids.
Buy or Check Out Books
We have purchased several good books on space, both for kids and adults. We happened to already have a copy of Universe: The Definitive Visual Guide from DK Books, which has lovely, large pictures and is engaging for people of all ages.
Even if you can’t afford big picture books, you can find a wealth of resources, including books and videos, at your local library. She likes looking in the juvenile nonfiction section for books about space (and ancient Egypt) pretty regularly, and she knows she’s free to check out as many as she wants.
Watch Videos or Play Games
Our daughter is six, and she’s not all that interested in video games yet, but she always likes it when a space-themed episode of one of her favorite shows comes on.
We have a DVD of Space Racers, an animated series from American Public Television that aims to teach kids about the solar system and space exploration (and includes lots of resources for teachers and parents to help their kids learn more about space).
We could do a better job of seeking out age-appropriate space documentaries for her to watch, and I’m sure there are some episodes of both iterations of Cosmos that she would be interested in.
Shop for Themed Toys
The girl loves her spaceship LEGO sets, her little space people and rovers. None of them cost a lot (except for one set we bought on vacation) but they provide lots of opportunities for her to do pretend play related to space travel and for us to talk about space.
With her model Hubble in hand we can talk about and look at the pictures it sent back. We talk about the photos of Pluto and how space probes have improved through the years.
She can play with a moon rover and imagine what it might be like to ride in the real one.
Take a Vacation
This is not something every family can do, but if there’s a way to work your child’s passion into a vacation or a day trip, make every effort to do so.
When looking for a beach vacation this summer, it happened that we could pretty easily get to New Smyrna Beach, about halfway between Daytona and Cape Canaveral.
One day we headed north to the planetarium in Daytona, which had a children’s program that was not that great for a kid who already knows about space (but she liked it anyway).
Another day we spent at the Kennedy Space Center, seeing the Saturn V rockets and Atlantis and learning the story of manned space flight in a way the books could never show her.
She loved it. We all did.
Even if she never really becomes an astronomer mom, those memories will stick with her and she knows that we support her passions in whatever way we can, which seems like a good thing for a kid to know.
Image copyright Sarah E. White.