Understanding the phases of the moon can be a challenging concept for kids. Creating a moon board is a tangible and visual presentation that they can really grasp, and it’s lots of fun to play with, too!
If you have younger children doing this project, then you will need to do Steps 1-2 ahead of time. Older children can gain some additional instruction in measuring by completing the first step with some guidance.
Supplies for making a hands-on moon phases project
Here is what you will need:
- Black foam board
- Box cutter
- Long metal ruler (like used in construction)
- Circular shaped object (It should allow your child’s head to fit into the hole on the board when you are done.)
- Box cutter knife
- 8 Smooth foam balls
- Red, black, and yellow paint
- Paint brushes
- Hot glue gun
How to make a moon phases board
Place your circular object in the middle of the board and, using a box cutter, cut around the object to create a hole in the center of the board. The hole should be big enough for your child’s head to easily fit through, but small enough that you have room to easily place your foam balls around the sides (see the photo for example).
Measure out 8 equal distance dots around the circular hole. I used a white crayon to mark my spots so they were visible to the children for gluing later. I used a long metal construction ruler and then marked as if I was going to be cutting a pie or a pizza in eight equal pieces.
Next you will have your children paint eight white balls half black –so one side is black and one side is white, as shown in the picture. Make sure you get the nice dense foam balls (not the Styrofoam ones that are bumpy). The molded dense foam balls are smooth and have a nice seam where they come together, which helps the kids know where to stop when painting.
Set them aside to dry. Then you will want to have the kids paint half a sun on one end of the board, as shown in the picture. This is important for lining up the direction of your foam balls for gluing. However, which end they choose to paint doesn’t matter; it will just guide you for gluing the balls on.
Once the paint has dried (explain the moon phases to the kids and use some good visuals – tufts has a good website – while you wait for the paint to dry), you will have the kids hot glue all the balls with the white side facing the sun they painted. See the photo for an example.
Next have the kids label their moon phases (you can pre-print labels or have the kids hand write them with a marker on white sticker labels). Lastly, have the kids place their head through the board and look at the moons, as they slowly spin the board around their head, counter clockwise (which is the direction the moon revolves around the Earth). They will see each moon phase as it goes around.
This is a great way for the kids to understand that the lit part of the moon is always the side of the ball that is facing the sun. As they put their head through the hole in the board, they are then seeing the Earth’s view of the moon (or it could be explained as how we see the moon as we look out from the Earth).
What are some of your favorite resources for studying the phases of the moon?