Phases of the moon

Last Winter, when it went dark before my now 4 year old's bedtime, he was fascinated by the moon.  We spent a month observing the lunar cycle and we made a paper mache Earth and moon.  Now it's dark again in the evenings, the small boy has been noticing the moon more often, as has his little brother.  A few months ago, I made something to help my son keep track of the phases of the moon, but he wasn't massively interested.  Over the last couple of weeks it's captured his imagination, so the idea might have some merit after all and I thought I'd write about it!

Pieces of the moon

I used a thick cardboard box, some tape, a circle cutter (something round and a craft knife would also work) and a piece of Lumaglow material that we were gifted earlier in the year.  The Lumaglow is fun but isn't necessary, you could substitute with glow in the dark paint or just white paper (albeit it may be a little less engaging).  The idea was to make a moon shape and some pieces that could be taken in and out to make the different shapes my son sees due to the relative positions of the Sun, Earth and moon - the thick cardboard gripped well enough when put back in that it didn't fall out when put upright.  I also cut shapes to spell the word 'moon' as he was learning the 'oo' sound at the time, but this could be missed out (and I didn't do a great job of it, it's pretty wobbly!).

Assembled moon with one piece inserted

I made a sandwich of cardboard, the Lumaglow glow in the dark material and the piece of cardboard with shapes cut out, and taped it around the sides.  If using glow in the dark paint, you'd just need to paint the circle shape behind the 'moon' on the back piece of cardboard (and for white paper, just put a sheet between where I put the Lumaglow).  From the circle shape I'd cut out, I cut crescent, quarter and gibbous moon shapes - if you insert or take away pieces, you can roughly match the shapes you see through a lunar cycle.

Glowing waxing gibbous moon

The idea was that my son could track the phases of the moon in real life using his glow in the dark moon.  He was keener on making 'crater' shapes with a torch on the Lumaglow, and it largely languished unloved for a few months.  Now he's more interested in the shapes (and still in drawing craters) and we've talked about it a few more times, including when we saw a full moon on Halloween.  I'm going to suggest that we track another lunar cycle and he can use the cardboard shapes to match what he sees in the sky - for a child whose drawing isn't really up to keeping a record of what he saw the previous day yet, this should help him to notice the changes he sees.


  1. Sorry to be "Reviewer #2", but surely it should be "due to the shadow the moon casts on the moon"?!

  2. Thanks 'Anonymous', I've corrected - should learn to proof-read things I write whilst very tired before posting...!


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