Space Mini Unit



We spent about 1 1/2 weeks learning about space, with a special focus this time on space exploration. Two years ago we mainly focused on the planets, which was fun to repeat with my 3 year old. But, my 5 year old had a much greater interest in rockets and rovers and such, so I grabbed a lot more books this time for him.



*The two favorites of my 3 year old. Most other books were more for my 5 year old.

**These were just okay. Interesting for one read, but overall not as engaging.

Reference Books:

Note that we did not sit and read every page of any of these books, but flipped through and read what interested the kids at the time. My son also enjoys flipping through books like this with lots of pictures on his own even though he cannot read yet.

*We used this book for the information about the planets. We did not really cover too much about constellations and stars this round.

Projects & Activities



Shown here are the books The Planets and Space!

My free Solar System Cards are also pictured here.

We used a clay recipe from Nature’s Art Box, but I’m sure store-bought clay or salt dough would work great! We used biscuit cutters to make different sizes, then once they dried we used watercolor paint to design them. Both kids loved this activity, and then they. had their own solar system to play with.



For a space sensory bin we used black beans, black and white glass gems, balled up aluminum foil (for meteors). Then we put our clay planets and toys in the bin. The kids play with this and tell stories but also use scoops and fine motor tools to play around.



Shown here are the books What We See in the StarsSpace!Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover, and Life on Mars.

We made homemade bright red play dough (here’s the recipe I use), built the Curiosity out of LEGOs, and just did a lot of reading and pretend play.



Shown here are the books Moonshot and Exploring Space.

Obviously my son was particularly interested in rockets — what kid isn’t? So, we used our books and watched videos comparing different rockets over the course of space exploration history. We used these Space Shuttle Nomenclature Cards and books to learn about the parts of the space shuttle.

I have about 20 different space shuttle drawings all over my house right now! And we built different rockets out of LEGO Duplos as well.

The R is for Rocket printout is from the Playful Learning Space Unit (Member’s Lounge access only).



Not surprisingly the kids wanted to make more of a craft-based space shuttle (not just illustrate their own on paper), so we looked up ideas together and liked this one with the fire hanging down from the rocket. We taped the rockets to their ceiling fan and had fun watching them take off!



Shown here are the books MoonshotExploring Space, What We See in the Stars, and Space Exploration.

The Printable Space Exploration History Cards are free. We also found the book A Brief Illustrated History of Space Exploration at our library which helped put the timeline of space exploration in context.

With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing coming up this year, it was fun to have my son so interested in learning more about this mission. He particularly loved learning about the astronauts and the mechanics of The Columbia and The Eagle. Again we watched some videos — the footage of the Saturn V rocket launch is pretty astounding and worth checking out!



Shown here are the books Moonshot and The 50 States.

The black and white state cards are from Target.

The NASA facilities location map I got from here.

My son likes maps so I thought it would add some context to his understanding of the U.S.A. to pinpoint where the Kennedy Space Center, Jet Propulsion Lab, Johnson Space Center, and Langley Research Center are.



This Solar System Scavenger Hunt is free – I created it awhile ago. This past week we used it by hiding the printed planets around the house, then the kids had to find them, name them, and check off the list until we found them all. This is really fun and engaging, and works well for young children. It was a fun way for my 3 year old to learn the planets a bit more.



Shown here are the books Mae Among the StarsCounting on KatherineHidden Figures, Herstory, and Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.

Our point of inspiration to even begin a space-themed unit was Mae Jemison and Katherine Johnson. I had checked these books out for Black History Month, but my son in particular was so enthralled I thought it warranted further exploration.

Katherine Johnson has even inspired him to go deeper with his math lessons! He asks to do math every day now!


We learned about what it’s like to be an astronaut: A Day on the International Space Station, and Astronauts were two books that helped.

We listened to some music included on the Voyager Golden Record.

We also talked a lot about gravity and played games to demonstrate.

We watched several videos from NASA: rocket launches, the design of the Mars Curiosity rover, a tour of the International Space Station. Lots to enjoy online!

Additional Resources

Feel free to take a peek at our Space Unit from two years ago! We repeated some of these things this year too, like a meteor count and scavenger hunt.


Links to All Printables


Space Play: My Picks



Space Preschool Activities


IMG_8223My son (3 1/2) has shown interest in space lately, and I thought with the solar eclipse happening soon we should spend some time on space learning activities and reading and fun.

We’ve got our eclipse glasses (which are apparently absurdly expensive right now) and will likely travel that day to get a better view.

NASA also has some great resources here and here for ideas.


Note that a few of these have a lot of educational text and are intended for older-than-3-year-olds but we still found value looking at the pictures and exploring!


IMG_8155.JPG Solar system play dough fun! Homemade black play dough with black food coloring & black glitter.

I made planets by painting 1.5″ wood craft coins with acrylic paint. I always finish wood crafts with polyurethane to ensure they stand up to rough play. I also made meteors (painted black rocks with black glitter).

My son loved this son much! Our space shuttle was covered in black play dough by the end and glitter was EVERYWHERE, which helped me realize how terrible my dust buster is.

IMG_8167 Matching our craft coin planets to our Space 3-Part Cards [link is to a free PDF file]. I seriously spent 20 minutes painting these planets and didn’t care too much about size/scale (how can you, really?) — I just wanted them to match our cards … and get my hands covered in black paint in the process.


Memory game with our Space 3-Part Cards. Print two copies on card stock, laminate and cut in to cards. Then play a simple memory game.

You can also use the cards as a traditional 3-Part Card set, but since my son is just starting to learn about this stuff I wanted to keep our learning centered on PLAY. Plus: I can’t even keep the planets straight!



Solar system busy bag scavenger hunt. Basically I filled a 1 gallon zip loc bag with a little bit of water, dyed it black, added silver glitter. Then, I printed out our Solar System Scavenger hunt sheets [link is to a free PDF file]. The 2nd page has just the planets (plus sun and moon) in circles, so I cut those out, laid them down on the table, and added the black water bag on top. You have to (1) push the water around (some people use hair gel), (2) find and name a planet, then (3) mark it off on the scavenger hunt sheet.

Another option is to laminate the planet circles and place them *in* the bag but I felt this was an unnecessary extra step & waste of a laminating page. It worked fine just placing the circles under the water bag on the table.

IMG_8219.JPG Meteor counting activity.

A tray of black beans and scrunched up tin foil balls: that’s it!!

Counting numeral cards via The Peaceful Preschool curriculum.

IMG_8272.jpg Eclipse + orbit role play game: sun, earth and moon.

There’s 3 of us so we took turns being either the sun or the earth or the moon. Whoever was the sun got to hold a flashlight and shine it at earth. To demonstrate an eclipse, whoever was the moon stood in front of the flashlight beam to block the sun to earth. We also got silly with orbiting each other — running circles and getting dizzy.

IMG_8267.jpg Moon rock transfer activity: adding black marbles on to white golf tees (placed in a foam piece covered in tin foil). My 2 year old LOVED LOVED LOVED this. This easy-to-set-up activity is great for concentration, coordination, and fine motor skills. You could make this more difficult by numbering the golf tees and having the child place them in sequence. I set up the golf tees for my 2 year old but you could also have your child add the golf tees to the foam board themselves!
IMG_8236.JPG SPACE phonics activity + Sensory “space treasure hunt” fine motor activity and play.

First, my 2 year old scratched with a wood pencil on our ALEX Little Hands scratch ABC’s (via Target Dollar Spot which I cannot find online — but you could get these sheets and cut into letters or shapes). We reviewed the letters as we went.

Then, later I added those letters to a cookie tray covered in tin foil with multi-colored marbles (“planets”), black beans and tin foil balls  (“meteors”). I wrapped several marbles in tin foil and they had to hunt for them like treasure. Unwrapping small objects wrapped in tin foil is a GREAT and simple fine motor activity!

IMG_8130.JPG Solar system orbit drawing & play.

I very roughly drew circles around the sun, one at a time, and had my son say which planet went in that orbit and then place it there. After we were done, he played and had his spaceship land on meteors. Things then turned for worse when the sun “went away” and planets started bumping into to each other!

IMG_8187.JPG Space-themed song & movement games:

The Moon Is Round via Games Children Sing & Play

The Sun It Rises via Games Children Sing & Play

Zoom Zoom Zoom We’re Going to the Moon