Making an Earth and moon

A few months ago we made a set of planets plus the Sun to go on the small boy's bedroom wall. Since then, he's often gone along them in order of distance from the Sun, telling anyone who would listen their names. He's also been fascinated with the moon, and we have observed lunar cycle. I thought he might therefore like to have a go at making a 3 dimensional version of planet Earth and the moon.

I decided we could try and make them from papier-mâché (paper mache) and paint them once dry. As it happened, he had other ideas about how to decorate them...

Mixing the flour and water for paper mache

To make the paper mache, we ripped a newspaper into strips and then dipped them in a mix of one cup of plain flour and one cup of warm water. The small boy thoroughly enjoyed whisking the flour and water, and ripping the newspaper. The next step was to put the strips of paper around something to make the spherical shapes, one of which (for the moon) was around a quarter of the diameter of the other. The best things we had to hand were a balloon which was almost spherical and a ball pit ball. We started sticking on the paper together but the small boy decided he didn't like getting the goo on his hands and that Mummy should finish the job - we'd barely started and thus I ended up layering on the paper by myself whilst the littlest one attempted to assist by picking up the bowl and trying to tip it all over the floor...

First layer of paper mache

Anyway, with the lack of constructive assistance, I covered the balloon and the ball and left them to dry overnight. I tried to get the small boy to help with the next stage and he wasn't keen on anything except watching - I popped the balloon and extracted it, then covered over the hole left where it was removed with a little more paper mache (the mix just needed a little more water adding to make it the right consistency again). I cut the moon open and squeezed the ball pit ball out without separating the hemispheres, then added another layer of paper to hold it together again. Then we left them to dry until the next day.

The small boy disagreed with my suggestion that the Earth and moon should be painted and instead wanted them to be marbled. I wasn't sure that dipping the whole thing in a bowl of water and marbling ink would work well, and feared a soggy, sagging sphere would result.  I was also keen to attempt to differentiate between sea and land on the Earth, and had been intending to paint the continents and polar regions different colours.  However he was very enthusiastic about marbling, so I thought we could marble paper and then use it for a further layer of paper mache.  We used IKEA drawing paper which absorbs water quickly (rather than printer paper which is shinier) as I thought this was closer to newspaper and would probably work well for paper mache.  We made black only ink patterns for the moon, blue and the residual black for the sea, and then added green and a bit of yellow for the land.  He also wanted to make some other coloured patterns, which we did, although they didn't get used for the next bit of this activity (I'm thinking of using them to make letter shapes to use to practice his phonics unless he has a better idea).

The finished moon and Earth

We let the marbled paper dry, then ripped it up (again, he liked this bit) and I cut some approximate continent shapes from the green plus an Antarctica and arctic ice shapes from paper we'd not marbled.  He started off helping me to stick them onto the Earth and moon, but then lost interest again.  I left them to dry on a radiator and he found them after an hour or so and was keen to play with them.  He made the moon orbit the Earth and wanted to know why the moon doesn't go in a different direction, so we talked about how the Earth's gravity doesn't just make objects close to it fall towards the Earth, but it also works to hold things like the moon and the space station close to it in space.  He's since had fun using them in imaginary play with some of his Duplo people and a pretend space rocket with a lunar lander, and they're robust enough that they've survived being thrown around by his brother too!