During the summer months, we’re often looking for ways to avoid the sun – searching for shade, applying sunblock, staying indoors. But, using certain precautions, the sun doesn’t always have to be avoided– in fact, it provides perfect opportunities for learning and creating.
Spend summer days doing solar-themed activities in which kids can connect to the sun – from discovering what makes the sun tick to cooking with it.
Learning about the sun is a terrific – and interesting – science and astronomy topic for kids. You can discuss the basic facts such as how the sun is at the center of our solar system, Earth revolves around the sun along with other plants and how it’s a star that’s closest to Earth compared to other stars. You can find out tons of interesting sun facts online; for example, check out: http://www.squidoo.com/sun-facts-for-kids, http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/sun_for_kids_main.html, and http://www.kidsastronomy.com/our_sun.htm. Depending on the ages of your children, you can start basic or go deeper and discuss topics such as sun spots, solar eclipses, what the sun is made of and even why it’s round. Another important sun topic is how our atmosphere and the sun’s effects are changing through global warming.
I remember as a kid being fascinated with how the strength of the sun could actually cook food. My brother would run out on 100 degree-plus days and fry an egg on the sidewalk. Although I don’t really remember eating those fried eggs, it was definitely fun experiment to watch. However, there are ways to cook food with the sun in a more sanitary and safe way. First suggestion would be for you and your child and make a solar oven with a few simple items such as a shoe or pizza box, foil and black construction paper. Check out http://www.hometrainingtools.com/build-a-solar-oven-project/a/1237/ and http://www.sandiegofamily.com/for-the-kids/family-science/89-cooking-with-the-sun-science-with-kids for detailed instructions on a couple of solar oven ideas. With these ovens, you can safely cook items such as mini-pizzas, s’mores, nachos and hot dogs.
Take a walk in the sun at different times of day in the same area so your kids can see how their shadow is changing and mark the changes with chalk. Another fun shadow activity is making a sundial out of a sand-filled can with a long stick sticking out of it; your child can record how the changing shadows tell time. You can also go over the history of sundials and how people long ago understood time using them and observing their shadows.
The sun is also a great topic for all kinds of literature. You can discuss how in ancient times, many cultures worshipped the sun and there were stories/myths attached to the power and mystery of the sun. Pick different cultures (e.g., Native American, Greek, Chinese) and how they each characterized the sun and worshipped it in different ways. Also, for younger kids, there are wonderful fictional picture books that are sun-centric; for example, Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven and The Wind and the Sun, an Aesop fable. Your child can then create their own sun-focused stories – perhaps making up their own sun story and how it makes a difference in our world.
The sun also provides a great means for creating wonderful art projects. One of our favorites is making stain-glass ornaments. You can just simply get two pieces of wax paper cut into circles, tape one of the circles into an aluminum pie pan, take crayon shavings of different colors and sprinkle them on to the wax paper and then place in the sun. Once the crayon shavings melt, place the other wax paper circle on top of the other circle and press down everywhere. Let the melted shavings cool in the refrigerator, remove the circle from the pie pan, punch a hole at the top of the circle and you have a beautiful and unique ornament that looks great in sunlight.
Sun catchers are also fun crafts for kids of all ages. Just use two pieces of clear contact paper and cut them into the desired shape your child wants to use, such as a circle, heart or diamond. Peel back one of the pieces of contact paper and stick the various sun-catching objects (e.g., colored tissue paper, colored beads, rhinestones, etc.) on the sticky side. Then peel back the other piece of contact paper and stick it on top of the objects so that the sticky sides of the papers are facing each other. Then use colorful construction paper to frame the sun catcher, punch a hole at the top and use ribbon or string to hang it in a sunny window. Voila!
You can also opt to purchase a Sun Art paper kit and use different objects from outside (leaves, flowers, sticks, etc.) and create beautiful works of art.
So grab the sunblock and a hat and spend some protected time in the sun. Remind your kids how powerful the sun is and remember to appreciate and enjoy its warmth, power and wonder.