If you are the parent of grade-schoolers, it would be a shame to let the balmy summer nights pass without introducing your kids to the wonders of the nighttime sky. Summer is the perfect time to plan an adventure that they will remember well into the start of the next school year, but requires traveling no further than your own backyard. Plan a stargazing sleepover party for your children and their friends and help them begin to unravel our place in the cosmos.
Although this will not necessarily be a birthday party, incorporate the same elements you would in planning one. Schedule energetic activities in the beginning of the evening to help the kids burn off the last of their steam, and quiet activities to settle them down. Serve food that ties into the party's theme and tickles their imagination. And in the process, you can sneak in a little off-season education.
Setting Things Up
- Ask everyone to arrive at 6:30 p.m. in time for a little fun and then dinner.
- All the children (and any accompanying adults) should bring their own sleeping bags and insect repellant.
- Set up enough tents in your yard to accommodate all your guests. If you will have boys and girls, you can label the boys tent "Mars" and the girls tent "Venus". Later in the evening you can explain the Roman mythology behind the planets' names, and that Mars was the male god of war, and Venus the female goddess of love and beauty.
- If you will be cooking outside on a grill, make sure it's located a safe distance from the tents.
- Visit About.com's site Space and Astronomy for Kids to get age appropriate background information for your group.
- Decide whether you will be focusing on locating planets or constellations.
- Purchase a star map from your local hobby shop or telescope store.
- Purchase, borrow, or rent a telescope.