Moon Observations

No matter where you live, you and your child/children can observe the moon's phases (If you live in a city surrounded by tall buildings, or deep in a wooded area, you may have to search for it between buildings or trees). It's one of the easiest ways to stay connected to nature's rhythms. And now that the sun sets earlier here in the Northern hemisphere, you don't need to keep your kids up late to have a darkened night sky.

I've done this activity with lots of people from young children to adult graduate students. And guess what? Every single person has learned from this investigation.

My experience is that, while the moon is ever present in or lives, few people pay close enough attention to learn it's patterns. For example... have you ever seen the moon in the morning or afternoon? All of our nursery rhymes and children's stories show the moon at night. Why is it sometimes visible during the day? What are the phases of the moon?

Here are some simple directions.
blank calendar or journal (depending upon age of child(ren)
optional- paints, brushes, colored pencils etc. for artistic representations


  1. Go outside with your child every night. Try to go at about the same time- perhaps just before bedtime- and stand in exactly the same place. (You could also look out from the same window each night if the moon is visible form there).
  2. Have your child (you too!) draw a simple picture of what they see. If using a blank calendar with young children, just draw the shape of the moon in that day's square. Is it a full circle? A crescent? Which way is the crescent facing? If it's cloudy, and the moon isn't visible, they can draw clouds. If it's a clear night but you don't see the moon, leave it blank.
  3. For those who are so inclined, use artistic media to explore the moon. Paint with watercolors, take photographs, write a poem. The options are endless.
  4. As the days progress, talk with your kids about what they see. What changes do they notice? Why might they be seeing those changes. Can you discern a pattern?
  5. Here's the hard part... I strongly discourage you from doing research to learn about what you're observing until you've really spent some time looking and thinking and puzzling on your own. As soon as you and your child learn from experts, you'll start to notice less on your own or maybe lose interest. Why keep looking? You'll already know the answer. Instead, struggle to figure it out together. And resist telling your child what you know (or think you know). Ask questions to get them thinking. If you and your child start to feel frustrated, however, seek expert information. 
I encourage you to commit to this project for 28 days- the amount of time it takes the moon to go through a full cycle.

Here are a few books you might try in addition to internet searches:
The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons
The Moon by Melanie Chrismer

How the Earth Works by John Farndon (You may need to get this one from the library. It includes models you can create to help children understand what they're seeing in the night sky).

Have you been paying attention to the moon's phases? What phase is the moon in right now? Why not jump in and start observing tonight?